A three-goal deficit ahead of the second leg of the World Cup qualifier against UAE does not appear to have dented the hopes of the senior national team. India take on the Gulf nation at the Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday armed with little more than hope given the body blow delivered in the first leg at Al Ain on Saturday.
“3-0 is quite a mountain to climb but this team is confident,” said India coach Armando Colaco on Thursday. “It’s important not to concede an early goal because it will demoralise the team completely.”
Goalkeeper Subrata Pal and left back Debabrata Roy will be missing after being sent off in the previous tie. Colaco confirmed Karanjit Singh, who performed admirably after Pal’s dismissal, would be retained as goalkeeper.
“I have to keep him, he did so well in the away leg,” said Colaco who added that Harmanjot Khabra would probably be introduced as wide right midfielder.
Steam lost early UAE coach Srecko Katanec, a majority of whose team comes from the country’s under-23 squad, said that he expected India to come out all guns blazing but was not worried due to the three-goal cushion.
“It’s the home-game for them and they will attack from the start. India press well but their aggression reduces after the first fifteen minutes. It’s what I’ve seen from the Asian Cup and the friendly against Qatar.”
Asked by HT whether he felt the two red cards were harsh, the 48-year-old Slovenian who won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Sampdoria in 1989-90 said, “Rules are rules. Then again, if my players did the same thing I would probably have the same complaint. Everyone has been talking about what it would be like if it was 11 against 11 but don’t forget we missed two easy chances before those players were sent off too.”
Rain & Home Ground
“I’m in a bit of a dilemma about the rain,” said 58-year-old Colaco whose team currently lies 44 spots below UAE in the rankings.
“The ball will not move if it rains heavily but I have the under-23 boys with me who can run and kick the ball up the field all evening.” Colaco added, “We will keep attacking as there is no option but we can’t leave the defence weak. We may lack physicality but the boys want to prove themselves at home where I’m sure a big crowd support will help us.”