Will India be able to take advantage of a rare chance to go up the world rankings?

first_imgIt would have been five years since India hosted a non-Asian team by the time they take the field on Saturday to play Puerto Rico at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. This is the first international friendly to be played here since 1955. The Caribbean country is the first nation that is visiting India since Zambia last touched down on Indian soil back in 2011. India lost 0-5 to Zambia in that match and since then not a single team outside Asia that can provide a good challenge to the Indian’s have agreed to play here.For lower ranked teams like India, it’s tough to attract higher ranked teams as they prefer playing opponents who are either near them or higher than them, which increases their chances to go up the table. With India going down the FIFA rankings each time they play, it’s becoming very difficult to play against good opponents. The last time India (178) played a higher ranked opponent was in 2014 when they clashed against Palestine (102) and lost 3-2 and finished the year on 171. (Also read: Stephen Constantine names probable squad for Puerto Rico match)India’s last friendly was against Bhutan (192) in an away match at Thimpu where they won 3-0 with goals from Summet Passi, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Holicharan Narzary on August 13, 2016. It was a typical India team on show against weaker oppositions as they dominated Bhutan and scored three goals in the first-half itself and finished the match with a good defensive display.But, Puerto Rico will provide a much-needed and steeper challenge to this Indian team. The island nation is scheduled to come to India after a derby against Dominican Republic, a match that is normally grueling and always keenly anticipated but it is believed that Puerto Rico will send their first-team because it will act as a practice game ahead of their third round Caribbean Cup qualifiers in October. The match will also help India to start their preparation for the Asia Cup qualifiers scheduled to start in March next year. This friendly will also provide both the teams to improve on their respective ranks.advertisementWith the chance to impress and climb up the rankings in this rare chance that India has, what do we have to do to get us over the line against a much better Puerto Rico team? To begin with, Stephen Constantine’s men have to believe in themselves and play as a team. The Indian team won eight of their last 10 matches. The two losses came against a much higher ranked Iran (39) and Turkmenistan (119) in the World Cup Qualifiers. India’s lack of stamina and abilities were clear in the matches. After a bright and promising display in the first-half, India fell apart in the second half in each of the occasions and that has been the story of Indian football for the longest of time. To begin with that’s the area where Constantine’s men should focus more to have even a decent chance to stand up against the bigger teams like Australia, South Korea and Japan in Asia. Young Indian footballers especially after the two seasons of Indian Super League have shown enough promise and prowess to at least the give better teams a run for their money. Players like Jeje Lalpekhlua, Rino Anto, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal and especially Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who is India’s sole player playing in Europe and has already played in the Europa league are well capable of performing against stronger oppositions but the belief and lack of match fitness kept hurting India in the past. (Also read: Stephen Constantine emphasizes on the importance of sports science)With teams not favouring to visit this part of the county often and also play a much against a team that provides little or no challenge, this is India’s golden opportunity to not only climb on the table but make the highly enthusiastic football fans believe in the young and talented Indian side.last_img

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