India brace for tough test in friendly against Belarus

The Indian national team will face Belarus in the second of two scheduled friendlies, having lost the first to Bahrain 1-2. Players who rested for the first match, having reached Manama just hours before the match due to visa issues, will be available for selection.

At the start of the national camp, Indian coach Igor Stimac had spoken about the pace of international football and how it can be a few notches above what most Indian players are used to in the Indian Super League. It turned out to be correct. Against Bahrain, most players failed to win the ball back quickly after losing it. The slightest pressure would result in missed passes or a clearance landing in the opposing half where Bahrain would scoop it up and come back with another attack.

In order not to waste, Stimac said he asked the players to focus on two aspects. One was to try and get the ball back immediately after losing it – and play high pressing, with the front line being the first line of defence. “Out of the five or six times we did that, we couldn’t get the ball behind the defence, instead we gave them (Bahrain) a good practice,” Stimac said at the press conference. pre-game.

The second instruction was to make small mistakes so that Bahrain did not have the opportunity to gain momentum. India committed a grand total of 11 fouls in 90 minutes of football, including five by Chennaiyin FC striker Rahim Ali. Ali was singled out for praise from Stimac, along with Roshan Singh. The latter, making his international debut, was instrumental in providing the assist for India’s only goal – a left-footed cross that found defender Rahul Bheke in the box.

Before the game against Belarus, Stimac said he expected his players to adapt to the rhythm of this game. “International football is more demanding, especially when we face top teams. There is a huge difference in energy levels. I understand that players are mentally exhausted from staying in a bio-bubble for a long time. But I want my players to get used to such energy levels to play in international football,” said the Croatian.

“You could see we ran out of energy in the last 10 minutes against Bahrain. That’s what makes the difference between the pace in ISL and international football.

Football during the war

This will be Belarus’ first international game since last November and, more importantly, one of the few games their national team will be able to play this season. Due to Belarus’ involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine, UEFA has banned the Football Federation of Belarus from hosting home matches in the country and hosting fans during matches. a neutral match of which they are the hosts. Belarus failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, losing seven of their eight qualifying matches.

“Belarus is a very well-known opposition for me. They are much more technical than Bahrain. They have recently played against top-tier teams such as Belgium and Wales. They play much more defensive and counter-attacking football. But I don’t see them being that defensive against us,” Stimac said. He thinks Belarus are a tougher challenge than Bahrain but also said he has better players available for this game compared to last outing.

Brandon Fernandes and Sahal Abdul Samad have become crucial to India’s plans. Two technical midfielders who can play with the ball and aren’t inclined to concede the ball when under pressure, their prowess will likely be put to the test on Saturday.

Anirudh Thapa and Jeakson Singh will also get some minutes on the pitch and the result aside, the match against Belarus will be an opportunity to test a young midfielder. Stimac also added that Anwar Ali and Ruivah Hormipam will have the opportunity to play in defense.

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