KOLKATA: India will look to continue their path towards the AFC Asian Cup 2023 when they take on Afghanistan in their second Group D fixture of Third Round Qualification on Saturday at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, kick-off at 8:30 pm.
The reputation between these two sides indicates that the match will be a real David vs Goliath battle but Blue Tigers may find the going tougher than many are predicting.
Afghanistan will certainly be in no mood to gift three points to India as they are in dire need of those points themselves, having lost 2-1 to Hong Kong on the opening day to leave their AFC Asian Cup hopes hanging by a thread.
India, on the other hand, leading the log after registering a 2-0 win over Cambodia, with skipper Sunil Chhetri scoring both the goals.
A win for the Blue Tigers would take them one step closer to the AFC Asian Cup, but there is no complacency from coach Igor Stimac.
”It would be a mistake to underestimate Afghanistan. It’s a very important game and we can’t be complacent. We know that all the teams will be tough out here.” Stimac said.
Stimac also adds that Afghanistan having tasted defeat at the hands of Hong Kong will be out to prove a point.
“We approach every game as a hard game, no matter who we play. Of course we will be out to win that match as well but again we will not take them lightly and look to put a good performance,” he added.
Stimac’s strategy against almost all the opponents has involved pressing heavily for the first few minutes, then gradually retreating into a deep position. That seems a favourable approach again, as Afghanistan have been slow to settle down into their passing rhythm at the start of games.
While watching India going through their final polishing touches on Friday, one gets a clear sense that the players are highly motivated to conquer Afghanistan.
Afghanistan nonetheless, have enough gumption to pull off a shocker. They have a bunch of talented and flexible players, which inadvertently makes them a bit unpredictable. There are enough reasons to conclude that they have it in them to take the fight to the Blue Tigers.
Afghanistan head into the match as heavy underdogs on paper given for one, the difference of 44 places on the FIFA rankings but coach Anoush Dastgir laid out a simple blueprint for his side, and maintained belief would be deciding factor.