Bengaluru: The odds are stacked heavily against beleaguered India as they brace up for the uphill task of locking horns with Asian toppers Iran in the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup football qualifiers here tomorrow. Though there are no injury worries for the Indian team, Iran will enter the Group D match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium
as firm favourites.
While the hosts will be contend with a respectable showing, Iran, ranked 40 in the FIFA ladder, will look to garner full points and top the group. Form and history does not inspire confidence for the supporters of the Indian team. The last time India beat Iran was way back in 1959, with the first victory coming in the final of the 1951 Asian Games in New Delhi.
But the current scenario is bleak for the hosts and with just one win from their last five games, the 155th ranked India will have their task cut out when they take on the Asian giants. Sitting at the bottom of group, India have lost both their qualifiers so far to Oman and tiny Guam. They played a warm-up match to conclude their preparatory camp versus Nepal and the match ended in a goalless draw, doing little to inspire confidence. The Indian team now need to buckle up for their sternest test so far.
India’s set-up against Nepal showed the coach was still experimenting with the team at his disposal and it will be interesting to see if he reverts to traditional personnel in the line-up.
Arnab Mondal, rested against Nepal, could return to the team’s central defense alongside the in-form Sandesh Jhingan, as they form India’s best partnership at the back. Dhanpal Ganesh looked solid against Nepal.
Coach Stephen Constantine’s best XI will also include Robin Singh and skipper Sunil Chhetri upfront with Jackichand Singh providing support. Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Ganesh, Pronay Halder and Sehnaj Singh will likely man the midfield. Rino Anto or Pritam Kotal will have Narayan Das as his partner on the opposite flank.
India have conceded 14 goals in six games, scoring five. The visitors are full of confidence as witnessed in their last game versus Guam. The Iranians have played 12 games since their exit at the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and have won eight of them, including a famous victory over Copa America winners Chile, at the Azadi stadium.