Battered by host China in their opening match after playing without any training session, India will be up against a tricky Bangladesh side in a must-win group match in the Asian Games football competition here on Thursday.
A rag-tag Indian team reached here late Monday evening and played its first match without proper rest and sleep and was hammered 1-5 by China on Tuesday.
Igor Stimac’s team needs to beat Bangladesh in its second Group A game to remain in the fray for the knockouts.
A loss on Thursday may not straightway knock India out of reckoning as the best third-placed teams from the six groups can also advance to the Round of 16, but that will leave the team with uncertainties in the final game.
Qualifying as one of the best four third-place teams could also set India up against tougher sides in the pre-quarterfinals.
Bangladesh has never been an easy side for India at any level, and it will also be desperate for a win after losing its opening match 0-1 to Myanmar.
India will, however, be strengthened after the arrival of defender Konsam Chinglensana Singh, who could not travel with the team before due to a visa delay. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) arranged an ‘express visa’ -- which could be procured in three days -- for him, and he has arrived here separately.
It will not be easy for the Sunil Chhetri-led side to beat Bangladesh and log its first win of the competition as the team was assembled at the last minute with very few known faces after the Indian Super League clubs refused to release their players.
The Indians played on an even keel in the first 45 minutes, but they caved in the second half, exposing the gulf in quality between the two teams.
Stimac himself admitted after the China match that he has brought a third-rung team with him.
“This is our third or fourth-choice team here. I would love to play against China with my best team. Then it would be totally opposite, but the players that are here are heroes,” the Croatian coach said.
“What they went through, with travelling problems, arriving here very late, not having time to recover and handling the first 45 minutes in a brilliant way.
“I was realistic and knew that it wouldn’t happen (to get a drawn match). With no-one on the bench, apart from three players which we had, we couldn’t make any tactical changes. We couldn’t influence the game in the second half.”
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