World Cup qualifier: India start as favourites against Guam
Despite the 1-2 defeat against Oman in their last qualifier, India will start as favourites against lower-ranked Western Pacific island nation when the two sides clash tonight
Hagatna (Guam): In keeping with coach Stephen Constantine's new rotational captaincy policy, prolific striker Sunil Chhetri has been handed the armband as India aim for full points against a motivated Guam in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers here tomorrow.
India's national football team take part in a training session at a beach in Guam. Pic/PTI
While India went down 1-2 after a spirited fight to higher-ranked Oman in their previous preliminary joint qualification, Guam created history with an upset solitary goal win over Turkmenistan.
The Blue Tigers though start as favourites despite the fact that hosts Guam come into the match on the back of a win against Turkmenistan. India will draw inspiration from the fact that they defeated Guam 4-0 in their previous match, besides counting the positives from their narrow defeat to Oman at Bangalore.
That Constantine has fielded 13 debutants in the last three matches is a well known stat in Guam. India gave plenty of hope in their last outing and will be looking to take some aspects of their style of play, moving forward, from the game at the Kanteerva Stadium. As far as the team combination is concerned, Constantine is unlikely to tinker with the line-up.
Chhetri and Robin Singh will lead the attack. Chhetri made a statement by scoring a gem of a goal against Oman and the Bengaluru FC skipper will look to add to his tally against the Guam defense. Chhetri's importance can be gauged from the fact that he has scored all three goals that India have scored in the World Cup qualifiers till now.
Jackichand Singh is expected to be given another start on the wing and CK Vineeth, despite a none-too-impressive game against Oman, could be on the other side of the flank. Jackichand's Royal Wahingdoh teammate Seityasen Singh may also be introduced on the right side.
Cunliffe key for Guam
The midfield combo of Sehnaj Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh will have a lot riding on them as well. In defense, Arnab Mondal and Dhanachandra Singh are expected to hold fort as central defenders, while Lalchhaummawia Fanai will regain his left-back slot. Subrata Paul, who had an excellent outing against Oman, will man the post.
The Guam team will looking upto Shane Malcom upfront, and he is likely to pair up with John Matkin. Operating in the hole behind them will be Ian Mariano. Jason Cunliffe, an attacking midfielder with 17 goals to his name in 35 appearances, will be one of the key players for the hosts. Brandon McDonald and De La Garza will be the centre-backs. In goal, Doug Herrick will be crucial to his side as it was his showing against Turkmenistan that helped fetch the narrow win.
Though India are ranked above Guam in FIFA rankings, Constantine isn't willing to read much into the disparity. "We are not in a position to look at the FIFA rankings. Every team have their plus and minuses. Guam having won their last match against Turkmenistan are going to be encouraged, stay motivated and be ready to play,"
Speaking about his opponents, the Englishman said, "They have several of their players playing in the USA. Obviously they have the edge of having two home back to back home games and they are going to maximise it as much as possible as everyone would. "But we are here to win the game. Whoever the opponent may be, we go to the field with a positive mind frame."