After succumbing to an embarrassing defeat against Tajikistan in the opening match of Intercontinental Cup, the Indian football team would look to stage a turnaround against North Korea in a do-or-die match at the EKA Areena, on Saturday.
Led by Sunil Chhetri, the last year’s champions lost 2-4 which has now resulted in a precarious situation for the team. To qualify for the final India will have to win both of their remaining matches. The game against Tajikistan had started well for the Blues as they led 2-0 going into the break. But a depleted and confused Indian defence shook failed heavily in front of a spirited attack by the opponents in the last 45 minutes.
The back-four consisted of two debutants, Narender Gahalot and Rao Desai, and lacked experience at the international stage. The other two Adil Khan and Rahul Bheke are also only few matches old and showed their incapability of shouldering responsibilities at this stage. The mainstay in Indian defence Sandesh Jhingan did not play the match because of a minor niggle. However, the senior defender is expected to make his return against North Korea and shoulder the backline of his team.
The North Koreans will also take the field with a similar kind of mentality. They too lost their first outing of the tournament when Syria handed them a 5-2 defeat. Like India, they had conceded four goals in the second half and looked a weak defending side, an area which the experienced Indian forwards would like to exploit.
In India’s first match, both the goals were scored by captain Sunil Chhetri. While the first was a cheeky ‘panenka’ in the fourth minute of the game, the second was a clinical finish from the talismanic footballer in the 41st minute. As he leads his team again for a do-or-die encounter he would be hoping to extend his prime touch to another game and expect the defence line would not repeat their mistakes.