India, despite missing their talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri, will fancy their chances when they take on hosts Jordan in an international football friendly here on Saturday. The match at the Jordan capital is in preparation for the AFC Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in January-February next year. India are ranked 97th while Jordan are placed 112th in the FIFA rankings.
Even though they will be without Chhetri, the country’s all-time leading scorer, Stephen Constantine’s men will take confidence from their goalless stalemate in their previous friendly against higher-ranked China, managed by World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi.
Chhetri’s absence has been dubbed a “big blow” by coach Constantine, under whom India enjoyed a dream 14-match unbeaten run till it was broken by Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek. With only about two months to go for the Asian Cup, the upcoming friendly provides Constantine are the last opportunities to analyse his squad and ready his backup plans.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will lead the backline which will have Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das and probably Subhasish Bose.
India’s defence impressed against Lippi’s China but Constantine will be banking on his midfield and attack to have an influence in the match against a Jordan side whose form has been patchy.
Jordan, who are ranked 15 spots below India in the rankings, last won a match in May when they defeated Cyprus 3-0. In their last four games, they have had two draws and two defeats, capping with a 1-2 loss to Croatia in October.
For India, mid-fielder Jackichand Singh and left back Nishu Kumar were on Thursday included in the 22-member squad for the away international FIFA fixture.
The likes of Udanta Singh, Pronay Halder, Halicharan Narzary and Anirudh Thapa are likely to control possession in the midfield against a Jordan side that will look to hit on the counter in the absence of a few attacking players.
In the absence of Chhetri, experienced men like Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh will need to take up the mantle up front. While the former has struggled in front of goal, the latter’s form is encouraging.
Ahead of the match Constantine said, “We want to do well in the AFC Asian Cup and the clash against Jordan will aid us. Jordan are a good side and they have a number of good players in their ranks.”
(With PTI Inputs)