By Soumo Ghosh
DOHA, QATAR: It’s a do-or-die situation for the Blue Tigers, as they get ready to take the field against Syria in their last game of Group B at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023.
India currently stand at the bottom of Group B, having lost their first two matches against Australia (0-2) and Uzbekistan (0-3). Syria, who had earned a stalemate against Uzbekistan in their first game, currently have the advantage in the race to the third spot in the group. The four best third-placed teams from six groups, along with the top two teams from each group, will make it to the round of 16.
The equation is simple for the Blue Tigers – they must get three points against Syria to secure the third spot and hope for the results in the other groups to go in their favour.
“We will try to keep playing our football,” said India head coach Igor Stimac, on the eve of the game. “We have worked on changes in mindset and our philosophy. Defeats are a part of the process, but our strength needs to be to bounce back from it.
“We are excited to play our football and the only way to bring the culture of the game to different parts of India is through playing good football, to pass, to keep the ball, and to score goals,” he said.
While the Blue Tigers played their first two matches at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Doha, they will be travelling to the city to Al Khor, to face Syria at the picturesque Al Bayt Stadium.
“We are excited to play the match at Al Bayt. Hopefully, that venue will bring us more luck,” said Stimac.
The India head coach, while complimenting Syria on their two results against Uzbekistan (0-0) and Australia (0-1), felt that they face the same problems up front, as the Blue Tigers.
“All credits to Syria for those two results. They are a physical side that play a compact 4-4-2 system. But they have also been facing similar problems as us – scoring goals. They have created their chances, but have not converted them,” he said.
India captain Sunil Chhetri was optimistic about his side’s chances against Syria, stating that the learning from games against sides of a higher level like Australia and Uzbekistan can be put to use against Syria.
“Syria are not much different from those two teams, in that they are a very physical team. The good thing is that we have already played two matches against such sides,” said Chhetri. “We can’t change what’s happened in these matches, but what we can do is to rectify the small mistakes that we’ve made.”
India are set to face Syria at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor at 5 pm IST on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, and the match will be broadcast live on Sports 18 and streamed live on Jio Cinema.