How much has the Indian Football grown over the years? Is there a positive impact on the sport after the start of the Indian Super League? Is Indian football in the right track under the head coach Stephen Constantine? Many such interesting questions will be answered when Indian football team takes on the People's Republic of China in an international friendly on October 13 (Saturday) at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Suzhou City. The match has been scheduled to start at 5.05pm IST and it will be a litmus test not only for India but also for China.
|Date||October 13 (Saturday)|
|Time||5.05pm (India time)|
|Venue||Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, Suzhou City|
|TV channel||Star Sports|
|Online stream||Hotstar and Jio TV|
China currently ranks at 76th in the FIFA charts while India is even behind at 97. The last time when the two neighbouring countries locked horns was way back in 1997 in the Nehru Cup held at Kochi, and India lost the game 1-2. Out of the total 17 matches played between the countries in the history, China has a remarkable track record of 12 wins while the rest of the 5 ended up in draws. The history is definitely not in favour for India while the footballing scenes in both the countries after 21 years since the last encounter are significantly different.
For those wondering why a friendly between India and China now, the match is being played as part of preparations for the AFC Asian Cup in January 2018.
The Blue Tigers, under the tutelage of Stephen Constantine, have made leaps and bounds over the past few years. Constantine confirmed star defender Sandesh Jhingan will lead the team. His camaraderie with Anas Edathodika is expected to at the centre back positions with the towering Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under the sticks. Delhi Dynamos FC captain Pritam Kotal is expected to operate from right-back position, while 2018 SAFF Cup captain Subhasish Bose may feature on the left.
In the mid-field, Pronay Halder and Rowlin Borges expected to play the key role. The duo will be complemented with Udanta Singh and Halicharan Narzary in the flanks. Star striker Sunil Chhetri will partner with Chennaiyin FC striker Jeje Lalpekhlua in the attack. If Constantine goes for the aforementioned 11, he has a top-class side on the pitch.
In addition, the head coach is expected to use Nikhil Poojary, Ashique Kuruniyan and Salam Ranjan Singh as substitutes giving them vital playing time ahead of Asia cup.
The Red Dragons, on the other hand, comes after an underwhelming international outing last month. China lost to Qatar 1-0 and was held goalless by Bahrain. Italy's FIFA World Cup 2006 winning Coach Marcello Lippi is currently at the helm of China and he will have to prove his mettle in the match against India. This makes the Red Dragons deadly.
Another blow to China is the injuries for experienced international players like Zhang Linpeng and Piao Cheng. Both will not play against India and the young trio of Deng Hanwen, Fan Xiaodong and Zhang Xiuwei have been drafted in by Lippi.
Yu Dabao and Gao Lin will take charge at the front while midfielder Wu Lei who plays brilliantly in the Chinese Super League is expected to create many chances. Chi Zhongguo and Wu Xi will be flanked on each side of Lei in the midfield.
At the defence, Feng Xiaoting and Yu Yang at centre with Li Xuepeng and Wang Tong taking full-back responsibilities is what expected. It remains to be seen Lippi's man between the sticks- experienced Zeng Cheng or the in-form Yan Junling.
Possible starting line-up
China: Zeng Cheng (GK), Feng Xiaoting, Li Xuepeng, Yu Yang, Wang Tong, Wu Xi, Chi Zhongguo, Jin Jingdao, Gao Lin, Wu Lei, Yu Dabao
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Subhasish Bose, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pronay Halder, Rowlin Borges, Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua