The second edition of the Hero Intercontinental Cup will kick-off at Ahmedabad on Sunday with the Indian football team taking on Tajikistan in a much awaited encounter.
This tournament will be Igor Stimac’s second exposure to a tournament as the Indian national football team’s coach as he led India to a third placed finish in the Kings Cup held in Thailand recently.
Here are three things that you need to know ahead of this enticing encounter….
3. India start as favourites
Tajikistan have traveled to this tournament with most of their senior players missing, which means that this tournament looks simply an experience their squad and they would want to achieve way more than what is expected out of them.
Despite the fire in Tajikistan’s belly, India start as firm favourites against the side ranked 120th in FIFA’s latest standings.
One thing is for sure, through this tournament, fans will see that Igor Stimac and the way he sets up his team will go a long way in the evolution of Indian football in the near future. It is still unknown but it will be intriguing to see if Stimac follows a consistent model in order to define his success as India’s coach for a long time to come.
2. Young guns from Tajikistan have a point to prove
Tajikistan have never qualified for the Asian Cup and their biggest achievement in football has been winning the inaugural 2006 AFC Challenge Cup in Bangladesh.
Moreover, they have never achieved a FIFA ranking in double digits and their performances in the past year have been dismal.
Head coach Usmon Toshev, who took charge in November last year, has built a new team after Tajikistan failed to qualify for the Asian Cup.
His team consists of young blood which is eager to prove and do not crumble under pressure. They have had some decent performances under Toshev, however, he is yet to taste success in the five games he has been in charge and it would be quite brilliant if he manages to win his first match as Tajikistan’s coach by beating India.
1. Sunil Chhetri’s form will define the clash
India’s talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri has been playing the best football of his career in the last couple of years and fans won’t be surprised if it could be yet another blockbuster performance against Tajikistan.
Mind you, Chhetri scored a whopping eight goals in India’s 11 international games in the past year.