Myanmar v India: Five talking points

India broke a 64-year-old Myanmar curse and in the process inched that much closer to a berth in the AFC Asia Cup 2019, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

While the victory has boosted India’s chances of qualifying for the tournament in 2019, the team’s performance in the night was hardly dominating.

A 90th minute goal from Sunil Chhetri saw India clinch a vital 1-0 victory against host Myanmar in the AFC Asia Cup qualifiers in Yangon on Tuesday. The away win — which broke a 64-year-old jinx of India not beating Myanmar at its home — came on a day of another sporting high for India, with its cricket team wrapping up the Test series against Australia to hold on to its No. 1 Test ranking.

READ: Constantine hails India’s landmark win over Myanmar

While the victory boosted India’s chances of qualifying for the Cup, the nation’s performance that night was hardly dominating. We look at five talking points from the match and where India needs to improve to sustain its winning run.

1) Tactically under-prepared

Myanmar started the match 30 places below India in the FIFA rankings, but that’s not always a precise indicator of quality. It was surprising to see coach Stephen Constantine starting the match with only one recognised defensive midfielder — Rowlin Borges — against a side that thrives on speedy attack from the flanks. With Jackichand Singh also venturing forward, the defensive duties fell on Eugeneson Lyngdoh — a natural attacking midfielder — who clearly struggled in his new role on the left side of the midfield. Myanmar exploited that side in particular and India stayed in the game because of the fabulous work of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and defenders Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika.

It took a tactical change in the second half — Udanta Singh coming in for striker Robin Singh and defensive midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh replacing Rowlin Borges — to finally turn things in India’s favour. India need to be better prepared if it hopes to get a similar result when it hosts Kyrgyz Republic on June 13.

2) Will the real Lyngdoh please stand up?

Eugeneson Lyngdoh, the 2015 AIFF player of the year, thrives on space and freedom in the midfield, and so it is unfair to blame him entirely forIndia’s lacklustre performance in this match, where he played a more withdrawn role. But Lyngdoh has struggled for his club Bengaluru FC this season and looks jaded. He struggled while in possession and with the likes of Milan Singh, Pronay Halder and Dhanpal Ganesh — all defensive midfielders — in the team, Lyngdoh will be lucky to find a starting berth in the next international match if Constantine plans to use the same formation. A switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation might suit the Meghalaya-born player, who can then don his favoured No. 10 role with Chettri on the left and Udanta/Jackichand on the right.

3) Should Jeje and Robin start together?

Jeje Lalpekhlua and Robin Singh might vary in size and their approach to the game — Jeje is fast and mazy while Robin relies on his huge frame and brute force — but both left-footed attackers have a tendency to occupy a central role in attack. The opening half of the match against Myanmar saw India struggle to stretch its opposition with only Jackichand playing wide. Both Robin and Jeje like to cut inside to bring their favoured left foot into play, which meant all three in India’s forward line, including Chhetri, were trying to occupy the same space in the opposition penalty box.

As the average position chart of the Indian team shows, both Robin and Jeje occupied a central position, with Chhetri and Jackichand offering the width. In order to accommodate both Jeje and Robin in the team, Constantine had to play two of his creative players — Chhetri and Lyngdoh — out of position. Chhetri lacked the pace to beat defenders in the wing while Lyngdoh wilted under the extra-defensive responsibilities.   -  InStat

 

The narrow formation of the visiting team allowed space for Myanmar to run at full-backs Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das, who had a torrid time defending wave after wave of attacks. Winger Udanta coming in place of Robin changed the dynamics of the game and showed what the side had lacked till then. Jeje and Robin might be able to work together in a 3-5-2 (similar to Italy’s formation in EURO 2016, where Eder and Graziano Pelle combined together to great effect) or a 4-4-2 formation. But the latter would mean no place for Sunil Chhetri in the side and that’s something unthinkable.

4) A case for speedy wingers

Udanta has been a beacon of light in an uncannily poor league campaign for Bengaluru FC. The 20-year-old winger is blessed with pace and an eye for goal, which could augur well for the Indian national team. Coach Constantine has often favoured picking big names instead of players that suit the formation, but it’s high time India started with its pacy wingers, Jackichand and Udanta, together. Both like to hug the touch line and will offer natural width, thereby opening up space for the likes of Lyngdoh, Chettri and Jeje to weave their magic.

5) Cometh the hour, cometh the man!

There is no better phrase to describe Chhetri’s influence on the India team. India’s highest goal-scorer added one more to his tally to make it 53 overall and help the team in its attempt to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. While the captain had an uncharacteristically poor night on the left side of a front-three, he more than made up for it by scoring a goal in the 90th minute in a breath-taking counter attack — a move which he started. Chhetri collected a clearance outside India’s penalty box, turned the opposition defender to feed Jeje, who found the speedy Udanta with a delightful through-ball. Chhetri, anticipating the quick counter, dashed nearly the entire length of the field to collect Udanta’s cross. He then showed excellent control to tap the ball into the far corner — an exhilarating move that is a testimony to the man’s passion for scoring goals and winning games for his country.