Kolkata, October 14: Having their tail up after a famous result against Asian champions Qatar, the Indian football team will be eyeing their first win when they take on lower-ranked Bangladesh in a Group E Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Tuesday. India held Qatar to a goalless draw in Doha last month to underline their marked improvement under new head coach Igor Stimac who since taking charge has stressed on introducing a host of new faces in the team.
Sans Sunil Chhetri, India's record goalscorer and iconic skipper, who was indisposed for that game, India led by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were rock solid in their defense and even created a couple of chances in the second half. Gurpreet was in inspired form as he made innumerable saves to keep the more fancied Qatar at bay. India’s Show Against Qatar in FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers Was the Answer to All Who Questioned Our Fitness, Says, Coach Igor Stimac.
India lost to Oman 1-2 in their campaign opener in Guwahati and thus find themselves at fourth place in the five-team table with one point from two outings. Against Bangladesh, who are at the foot of the group after losing to Afghanistan and Qatar in their first two matches, India will be without the services of their defensive mainstay Sandesh Jhingan who played his heart out against Qatar.
Jhingan suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a considerable period. The Kerala Blasters centre-back sustained the injury during India's 1-1 friendly draw against NorthEast United in Guwahati on October 9. He will need to undergo surgery and is reportedly set to be out for six months effectively ruling him out of games against Bangladesh (October 15), Afghanistan (November 14), Oman (November 19) and even Qatar (March 26).
India were already plagued with injuries and Jhingan's addition to the list made it worst. Right-back Rahul Bheke has been included in the squad by Stimac but is unlikely to play any part on Tuesday as he recovers from his groin injury. Midfielders Amarjit Kiyam and Pranoy Halder are also out injured while Rowllin Borges is set to miss the clash due to suspension.
Adil Khan has been a mainstay in central defence and either one of Narender Gahlot or Anas Edathodika, who last featured at the AFC Asian Cup for India, could replace Jhingan. Bangladesh, who are are placed 187 in the FIFA table -- compared to India's rank of 104 -- gave a good account of themselves against Qatar in their last qualifying match at home on Thursday.
They lost by a 0-2 margin but Jamie Day's side did not go down without a fight, something the English coach says they can draw inspiration from. Bangladesh lost to Afghanistan in their campaign opener. The neighbouring nation have eight U-23 players in their squad besides the experience of skipper Jamal Bhuyan and midfielder Mamunul Islam.
Bangladesh have played in eight World Cup qualifying campaigns after the 1986 World Cup but their best result remains from 1985 when they got wins against Thailand and Indonesia in Dhaka. However, they could not conquer India, who twice beat Bangladesh 2-1.
India and Bangladesh last played a qualifier here for the Mexico World Cup in 1985. In the game against India, Bangladesh went ahead through a strike from Ashish Bhadra in the 15th minute before Bikash Panji, who also struck against Bangladesh in Dhaka, equalised in the 36th minute.
India will be playing their first match in Kolkata for the first time since 2011 and the euphoria around the match has been immense with a mad rush for tickets among football lovers in the city and suburban areas.