| Ashim: The spearhead vs Turkmenistan
Margao: It’s do or die for India when they take on Turkmenistan in the return-leg of the pre-Olympic qualifiers at the Nehru Stadium Saturday.
Having lost 0-2 in the away leg, the hosts will have to go all out to make it to the next round against Malaysia.
The Indians, ranked 13 places above Turkmenistan in the Fifa rankings, have been together for the last couple of days and coach Stephan Constantine is confident that his boys have enough firepower to clinch the issue.
The coach, who would have been satisfied with a solitary goal loss, felt that conceding a last-minute penalty was unwarranted.
“I thought the 93rd minute penalty was unnecessary. We would have been happier drawing or losing 0-1. Our boys created a couple of scoring chances before conceding the first goal.
Had our boys utilised the early chances, the story would have been different”, he felt.
Constantine however, didn’t foresee any changes to the team.
“We will field the same team. Crowd support will also play vital role in our success,” he said.
Ashim Biswas, Tollygunge Agragami’s mercurial striker will spearhead the Indian attack. He had an indifferent game in the last match, but the coach is confident he will do well this time around.
“He’s still a kid and you can’t expect him to perform every game. But I’m confident he’ll do well this time around,” Constantine added.
Tomba Singh, who played a vital role in Salgaocar’s success this season, will form the midfield along with Jatin Bisht, Dipankar Roy and Harpreet Singh.
Skipper Satish Bharti, Vinu Jose, Arun Malhotra and Manitombi Singh will be the back four while Sangram Mukherjee will do duties in goal.
The visitors, who arrived Goa Thursday, had a couple of practise sessions to get used to the heat and humidity.
Coach Rovshan Muhadov said this is a new team and there is no reason why they should not be able to keep the winning streak going.
“Having taken the runner-up spot at home in an eight nation tournament, which bolstered our confidence, we are determined to play attacking football against India”, said Muhadov, who played for the erstwhile Soviet Union and top scored with 35 goals in the Moscow League in 1991.
Muhadov said his team had played friendly matches with Lokomotiv Moscow, Atlanata Club, Lithuania and Estonia XI before coming to India. “We will play in the 3-5-2 formation and start aggressively to get a vital away goal,” he observed.
He informed that all the 18 players are professionals while three play in the Ukrainian League.
Muhadov, however, sounded a little apprehensive about the fans getting behind the home team. “Our boys are not used to playing in front of huge crowds and that can become a bit of a worry.”
He complimented the Indian side and felt that it will be a closely fought game. “They are skilful players with the defence well organised and the strike force impressive” he said.
It may be recalled, in the away match held in Turkmenistan capital which remained goalless till the last quarter, Azad Mohadov put Turkmenistan ahead in the 75th minute. The second goal came off a penalty kick converted by Karimov in injury time.
INDIA: Sangram Mukherjee, Arun Malhotra, Satish Bharti (captain), Vinu Jose, Dipankar Roy, Sukhwinder Singh, Harpreet Singh, Jatin Singh Bisht, Ishfaq Ahmed, Manitombi Singh, Tomba Singh, Asim Biswas, Alex Ambrose, Sheikh Sanjeeb.
TURKMENISTAN: Azat Muhadov, Eldar Aliev, Hasmagamed Amayev, Yagmyrat, Nazar Bayramov, Shohraty Durdiyev, Alik Haydarov, Rasif Kerimov, Vyacheslav Krendelev, Pavel Matus, Charyar Meredov, Mekan Nasyrov, Artyem Nikitenko, Begli Nurmuradov, Guvanchmuhamed Ovekov, Guvanch rejepow, Muhammet Saparow, Ywgeniy Zemskov.