India take on the Kyrgyz Republic in a do-or-die last league match in the AFC U-23 Asia Cup qualifiers on Sunday, with high hopes of qualifying for the finals. India will not only have to win their match but also hope that result of the other match in Group E too is in their favour.
Having beaten Oman 2-1 and lost to hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of a late penalty. As India had won and lost one match, so did the Kyrgyz Republic (beat UAE, lost to Oman). Igor Stimac's side are in an interesting situation as all four teams in the group have the same number of points, have scored, and even conceded the same number of goals.
With India taking on the Kyrgyz Republic and UAE meeting Oman in the last set of league matches, all four teams have a chance of qualifying and all types of permutations and combinations are possible. The group topper will clinch a direct berth to the finals in Uzbekistan next year.
If India beat the Kyrgyz Republic, they move to six points but Stimac's side will top the group only if Oman draw or beat UAE. If Oman win, India will top the table on basis of their victory in their head-to-head encounter. If UAE win, India will finish second and everything will then depend on results in the other nine groups so that they make it as one of the four best second-placed teams. If UAE win, India would finish second in the pool.
With all such scenarios possible, coach Stimac was understandably insisting on his boys to ignore the previous matches and concentrate on the job ahead -- the next 90 mi"utes.
"We need to balance the next 90 minutes. We need to be excited, but not over-excited. Such matches need a player to give 101 percent, and at the same time such matches demand that a player needs to b" patient," Rahim Ali"quipped. "Every player first needs to take up responsibility individually, and that will transpire to the ent"re squad."
Stimac has been the tireless trier going to every extent to stitch, mend, educate and enlighten. At the practice sessions, he dummies the feints points to the vacant spaces, and lays it down with the outstep of his foot - the ball glides through the green to evade the marker to get delivered to the unmarked one.
"We showed good team spirit in the last two games and played together as one. That is going to be important for the next game as well. Playing as a team is very important and that is what makes executing game plans a lot easier for players," Akash Mishra added. "We need to stay positive, and give our best."
Considering the tight situation in the group, Stimac said it is a very interes"in' situation. "It's a very interesting situation in the group wherein the situation is extremely tight. Teams are quite different, but then again very similar in regards to what someone can do on the pitch. Everyone has their own strengths"and weaknesses," Stimac was quoted as saying by the AIFF media team.
"We came into this qualifying group as underdogs against higher-ranked countries. But despite that, we've managed to put ourselves in a position to qualify for the U23 Asian Cup. A win would almost seal our berth in the Asian Cup and that is what we are aiming for. We know it won't be easy against the Kyrgyz Republic, but we've shown we can beat an" team on our day," midfielder Lalengmawia, fondly referred to as "puia, explained. "To qualify from such a tough group would be a good achievement for us. We wil" give it our all."
The team management, and the boys, however, are not going into the calculations. For them, the permutations and combinations can wait.
"It's futile"to look at the table," echoed"defender Ashish Rai. "We have 90 minutes ahead of us, and an extremely crucial 90 minutes. Everyone in the squad has made immense sacrifices all these years, and all of that needs to materialise in t'e next 90 minutes. It's not an easy task, but t"en, no match is easy," he opined.
Having done well so far, this is the last chance for the players for this age group to make it count.