AFC Asian Cup 2019: India vs Thailand: A pre-match report
The highly-anticipated AFC Asian Cup kicks off from tonight when UAE and Bahrain meet for the first match of the tournament. India start their campaign tomorrow against Thailand, with Sunil Chhetri and company carrying the hopes of over a billion people on their shoulders. Who have the edge tomorrow? Will India kickstart their fourth Asian Cup campaign with a victory? Let's discuss right here.
India will have to keep Thailand's attack at bay
India should be careful about the fact that Thailand are an attacking team and will look for goals right from the start. In the recently-concluded AFF Championship, Thailand managed to score 17 goals in a mere six matches, but eventually lost to Malaysia in the two-legged final. Despite Thailand being ranked lower than India, it would be a mistake to take them lightly.
Just defending will not help India's cause
India are quite a defensive side, and have never managed to score as frequently as Thailand. India's defense is undoubtedly their strength, with the likes of Sandesh Jhingan putting up a solid resistance, helped by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Using Pronay Halder will allow Anirudh Thapa to go forward and create more chances for India. Chhetri and Lalpekhlua will need to fire up.
Who are the key Indian players heading into the match?
Of course, Sunil Chhetri's name has to be mentioned first, as the Indian record goalscorer's form will indeed play a very important part in this campaign. India's foremost defensive midfielder Pronay Halder will be crucial in intercepting passes and interrupting Thailand's play. Custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will be determined to keep a clean sheet against Thailand, and a solid performance by him will only bolster India's chances.
How have the two teams performed head-to-head?
India and Thailand have clashed 23 times before, with Thailand winning on 11 occasions and the Blue Tigers emerging victorious just five times. India's last win against Thailand came way back in 1986.
Predicted XI and TV listing for the match
India: (4-3-2-1): Sandhu; Kotal, Jhingan, Edathodika, Bose; Thapa, Halder; Udanta, Chhetri, Narzary; Lalpekhlua. Thailand (4-2-1-3): Budprom; Promrak, Kerdkaew, Hemviboon, Bunmathan; Puangchan, Dechmitr; Songkrasin; Kraisorn, Dangda, Chatthong. The match kicks off at 7 PM IST, and can be watched on the Star Sports network or live-streamed on Hotstar.
How can the match pan out tomorrow?
India will play defensively tomorrow considering the fearsome attack Thailand boast of. The role of the defenders and central midfielders will be important for India, as the defenders have to match Thailand's pace, and midfielders Halder and Thapa have to maintain possession. However, India should rise to the challenge if they take their ambition to qualify for the knockout stage seriously.