An under-strength Indian football team will take the field against China to kick-start their Hangzhou Asian Games campaign on Tuesday. Even before the start of the competition, the side has been mired in controversy. Though India's talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri and star defender Sandesh Jhingan are part of the squad, many key players like frontline goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu are missing. (More Football News)
Head coach Igor Stimac made no bones about the fact that this not even close to the best team that should have been picked for the Asiad.
Stimac had on Sunday lashed out at the Indian Super League (ISL) organisers Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) and the clubs for not releasing players for the Asian Games.
An infuriated Stimac had said: "If I knew that certain elements would stop us from going with the best possible team, I would have rather picked all the players from the I-League and requested to train with them for two months and prepare with them for the Asian Games."
He added that given the depleted squad strength, he was unsure how will they would be able to perform at the big stage.
"There is a question mark on how much we can do with this team without spending one single day together to prepare. Five-six of these players are not involved in the ISL matches and most of them never worked with me. We will look at the tournament as a hope and yes there is a possibility to qualify from the group but to do that some luck needs to be there in our side. Also, the boys need to produce the best performance of their lives," he said.
After the match against China on Tuesday, India face Bangladesh on September 21 and Myanmar on September 24 in their group matches.
The top two teams from the six groups will make it to the pre-quarterfinals, with four best-ranked third-placed sides also qualifying.
"I am not thinking about results and the reasons are well known. We are hoping to give a good fight because I can't expect more in such a situation," Stimac said.
He added that he won't be averse to taking bold calls like resting Chhetri and Jhingan for the game against China.
“Don’t be surprised if I leave out Sunil Chhetri and Jhingan for the first game. We will not have a single training session prior to the game. Sunil missed a full pre-season with Bengaluru FC because of paternity leave. We won’t risk Sunil getting injured before the World Cup qualifiers. We will sit down and talk to Sunil and Jhingan.”
Since 2002, men's football in Asian Games has essentially been an Under-23 event, with each team allowed a maximum of three overage players.
Captain Chhetri, Jhingan and Chinglensana Singh will be the three overage players in the Indian squad.
Incidentally, China and India's U-23 teams faced off earlier this month in Dalian in the AFC U-23 qualifiers, and China beat India 2-1 then. But the Indian side now is considerably different from the one that played in that game.
Where will the match between China Vs India be played?
The match between China Vs India will be contested at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium in Hangzhou, China, on Tuesday, September 19.
When will the match be played?
The match will start at 5pm IST.
Where will it be telecast in India?
The game will be telecast on Sony Sports Network.
Where will it be live streamed?
The game will be live streamed on the SonyLiv app and website.