FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier: Talking points from India's 0-1 loss to Oman

The Indian football team was on Tuesday virtually knocked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifying round after losing 0-1 to Oman in Muscat.

With a nine point gap with the second-place team (Oman) in the group table, India is almost out of reckoning for a third round berth.   -  AFP

The Indian football team was on Tuesday virtually knocked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifying round after losing 0-1 to Oman in Muscat.

Mohsin Al Ghassani scored the all-important goal in the 33rd minute at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex Stadium as Oman beat India for the second time in the campaign.

Oman had defeated India 2-1 in the first leg in September in Guwahati.

Ashique Kuruniyan isn’t a left-back

In the opening match against Oman in Guwahati, Igor Stimac surprised everyone by having Ashique Kuruniyan lead the line, via the channels. Sunil Chhetri continuously fell back and became the link between the midfield and attack.

It was Ashique’s runs behind the defence that caused problems for Oman. India took the lead from a free-kick that Ashique won with one of his many runs.

REPORT| FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers: India suffers second defeat to Oman

Since that game in Guwahati, he has been used – to mixed results – at left-back by Carlos Cuadrat at Bengaluru FC. His positioning and instincts aren’t that of a defender and his offensive game is curtailed with him having to sprint the length of the pitch to get involved in attacks.

Despite a host of defenders out with injuries, his services are better used at the other end of the pitch.

Where are the goals?

Since taking charge, Stimac stressed on having the team play ‘positive’ football, one that’s easy on the eye. Five friendlies and five World Cup qualifiers later, the defence looks all over the place while the attack lacks cohesion. India has scored just thrice -- all goals from set-pieces -- in five matches.

As it happened

The constant chopping and changing of the personnel haven’t helped either. Counter-attack remains the side’s best weapon and yet India failed to muster a shot against Oman. Talisman striker Sunil Chhetri was a peripheral figure for the second game running, with the midfield and attack not finding the desired link.

Manvir Singh has proved to be an effective target man in holding up the ball and bringing other attackers into play but doesn't instill confidence when it comes to finding the back of the net.

Injuries cost India

While India didn't trouble the opposition's goal, it was hard done by two injuries early in the first half. Pranoy Halder was replaced in the 28th minute after he picked a yellow card to add to his shoulder injury sustained earlier in the match. Vinit Rai, who came in Halder's place, struggled to get into the rhythm of the game and was partially at fault for Oman's winner.

He failed to get in the tackle against Mohsin Johar, who threaded the through ball to Muhsen Al Ghassani to slot in the goal. Stimac's plan was further thwarted when his centre-back Adil Khan, too, hobbled off immediately after the goal.

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