Battered by hosts China in their opener which they played without any training session, India will be up against a tricky Bangladesh side in their must-win group-phase clash in the Asian Games football competition in Hangzhou on Thursday.
A rag-tag Indian team reached Hangzhou late on Monday evening, played their first match without proper rest and sleep, and were hammered 1-5 by China on Tuesday. They did put up a brave fight though in the first half, levelling the scores 1-1 with goalie Gurmeet Singh also saving a penalty.
Igor Stimac’s men need to beat Bangladesh in their second Group A game to remain in the fray for the knockout stage. A loss on Thursday may not straightway knock India out of reckoning as the best third-placed teams from the six groups can also advance to the Round of 16, but that will leave the team with a lot of uncertainties in the final game.
Qualifying as one of the best four third-place teams could also set India up against tougher sides in the pre-quarter finals.
Bangladesh have never been an easy side for India at any level and they will also be desperate for a win after losing their opening match 0-1 to
India, however, will be strengthened by the arrival of defender Konsam Chinglensana Singh, who could not travel with the team earlier due to a visa delay. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) arranged ‘express visa’ — which could be procured in two-three days — for him and he has reached Hangzhou separately.
Another reason why it won’t be easy for the Sunil Chhetri-led side to beat Bangladesh and log their first win of the competition is because the team was assembled at the last minute with very few known faces after the Indian Super League clubs refused to release their players.
Even after playing on an even keel in the first 45 minutes against China on Tuesday, India caved in following the change of ends, exposing the gulf in quality between the two sides. Stimac himself admitted after the game that India have gone in with a third-rung team.
“This is our third or fourth-choice team. I would love to play against China with my best team. Then the situation would’ve been totally opposite, but the players that are here are heroes. We are going to compete with our chins up,” Stimac stressed.