Indian Captain Sunil Chettri’s early strike went in vain as India lost to Oman 1-2 in their opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Thursday. Rabia Alawi Al Mandhar was the star performer for Oman as he scored twice in the last eight minutes of the match. India captain Chettri was the one who scored the opening goal of the match in the 24th minute, bringing joy to the Indian fans who are expecting India to finally make it to the World Cup after struggling to find a place for so many years. But their happiness was short lived as Oman made a comeback in the second half to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat. Mandhar was the one who inflicted damage on India during the last few minutes of the match as he got pass India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to make the scores equal at 1-1. He did not stop there and once again struck in the 89th minute to win the match for his team.
First half belonged to India-
The first half of the match was completely in India’s control and they finished it with a lead of one goal. India possessed the ball for the majority of the first half as well as more shots were directed at Oman’s goal post. One of the standout players for India was the returning Ashique Kurniyan as he created problems for Oman’s defence with his superb skills as well as the speed which he possesses. In the 24th minute, because of his effort, India got a free kick on the left edge of the box. It was Brandon Fernandes who took the kick and it went straight to Chettri who did not miss out on the opportunity and put India in the lead. Although, Oman pushed hard towards the end of first half, India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet did not let them score as he made some great saves.
Difficult to accept defeat- Chettri
After the match, India captain Sunil Chettri said it was difficult to accept defeat and accepted that his team did not possess the ball much in the second half. He further said the team will work on this, although he appreciated the effort put in by the boys. On the other hand, India coach Igor Stimac said the Indian team deserved a better result and that the team was punished for two silly mistakes towards the end. He further said that the team knew that they will face problems after 70 minutes , considering the condition of Kurniyan who is coming back from an injury as well as Sandesh was expected to face problem with his injury.
Oman 🇴🇲 mounted a late comeback to beat India 🇮🇳 2-1 in their opening #WCQ 🌏🏆 match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium 🏟 yesterday
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 6, 2019
Although, there are a lot of positives, which India can take from this game. It was a much better performance from India , especially in midfield and defence. Coach Igor Stimac has worked on some areas and It is clearly visible. Also India did not concede any penalty which is a very good news as this was not the case earlier as Indian team used to make a lot of errors. But the area of concern is that India has not been playing against such competition much India needed to have matches scheduled against tough opponents before the World Cup qualifiers for them to be ready for this tournament.
Oman coach Erwin Koeman said that the Indian team was very good in first half and was not happy with the kind of mistakes his team was making. He also said the same thing which Indian coach said that India deserved the win in that moment. But he further added that Oman were better in second half and had better possession as well. He said that their team also had substitutes because players were tired like the Indian players. He said that the Oman had a lot of chances but was happy that the team finally converted two goals.
India lost this match after being in strong position and it more or less makes us realize that nothing much has changed in Indian football. The Indian side did all they could to win and even managed to hold possession for majority of time in the first half. For sometime, it looked as if this was a completely different Indian side the Oman players, but ultimately Indian fans saw the same result as they have been seeing for a number of years now and all hope that was created vanished very quickly. If you are playing a game of 90 minutes , then you have to play your best for whole the time and not just 70 to 80 minutes and then give it away. Many of the fans will still be hoping that India can make a strong comeback in the remaining matches and their dream to see India in the Football World Cup finally comes true.
Indian team will next challenge hosts Qatar in Doha in their second qualifier match on September 10. The other teams in India’s group are Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The match against Qatar will be the most tough one for India as Qatar will be playing in their home. India will look to not repeat the same mistakes and also not be too casual in the second half of the match. One of the worries for India is the number of players who are facing injury issue or are coming back from an injury. Coach Stimac and captain Chettri will need to put their thinking caps on and plan out a strategy to overcome a team like Qatar in their home as a victory in that match can really lift the spirits of the Indian team. It does not look like India will have much difficulty against Afghanistan or Bangladesh, so the game against Qatar becomes the key match for the Indian side.