India vs UAE preview: Stimac demands a sprightly display

Fresh from an impressive comeback against Oman, the Indian football team will look for its first international win since 2019 when it faces UAE on Monday.

Igor Stimac

The Igor Stimac-led Indian football team will face a stiff challenge when it takes on 74th ranked UAE in an international friendly on Monday.   -  AIFF

After a resilient performance against Oman on Thursday, where the Indian football earned a gritty 1-1 draw, the Blue Tigers will face a superior-ranked UAE side at Dubai's Zabeel Stadium on Monday.

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The match will prove to be a “more difficult experience”, according to Indian head-coach Igor Stimac. India’s outing against Oman saw Stimac hand debuts to 10 players, with six in the starting line-up.

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The first-half was marred by positional errors where India was completely dominated in midfield. Chinglensana Singh’s unfortunate own goal made affairs trickier. Stimac's men put up a composed second half display and enjoyed more of the ball and found more space in the opponent’s half.

Lalengmawia's addition saw the side play with greater fluency and equalised through a thumping header from Manvir Singh, who converted Bipin Singh's cross from the right.

“The boys recovered well, to be honest…..it was exhausting game. As a coach, I was happy with attitude and performance. There were many debutants in the match. All credit to the lads,” said Stimac.

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The Indians will look to avenge the 2019 Asian Cup defeat when they face the home team on Monday. “UAE will definitely put pressure but that’s why we are here. We need to control the ball, we need to try and keep possession. It won’t be an easy game but we are here to gather experience and not more than that,” said Stimac.

- Jhingan out, Gurpreet returns -

Stimac confirmed that defender Adil Khan will replace Sandesh Jhingan, while Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will man the posts and also don the captain’s armband.

The Croatian added that Lalengmawia (Apuia) will start the game after the 20 year-old debutant carried forward his impressive form from the recently concluded Indian Super League season. (ISL) form.

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“We are going to see everyone who did not play in the first game in the match against UAE. These are friendly matches which I will use to find out the best (players) for the upcoming matches (World Cup qualifiers),” the head coach said.

- Stimac’s expectations from the UAE game -

The Indian coach reiterated several times that his team needs to be more aware of its style of play, especially in the middle of the park. “Our players will need to understand that this is not ISL where there is a lot of space and time to control the ball in the middle...There is no time and space in international football. You need to play 1-2, you need to be quick, sharp and you need to control your players in the middle and follow his runs behind,” said the 53-year-old coach.

India squad in full

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mashoor Shereef, Rowllin Borges, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharma, Liston Colaco.

UAE squad in full

Ali Khaseif, Khalid Eisa, Adel Al Hosani, Mohammad Al Shamsi, Fahad Al Dhanhani, Bandar Al Ahbabi, Shaheen Abdul Rahman, Waleed Abbas, Mahmoud Khamis, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Hassan Al Mahrami, Al Hassan Saleh, Salim Rashid, Mohammad Al Attas, Ali Salmeen, Abdullah Al Naqbi, Yahya Nader, Abdullah Ramadan, Majed Hassan, Fabio de Lima, Khalfan Mubarak, Caio Canedo, Khalil Al Hammadi, Tahnoun Al Zaabi, Ali Saleh, Suhail Al Noubi, Ali Mabkhout, Sebastian Tagliabue and Zayed Al Ameri.