• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

FOOTBALL

This time in football: India, Australia to lock horns in Asian Cup on Jan 13

While the Socceroos, ranked 77 places above India in FIFA list will begin as favourites, the coach of the South Asian side vowed that they will play ‘fearless football’.

India football captain Sunil Chhetri (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

FORMER champions Australia will take on India in the Group B opener in AFC Asian Cup football at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Saturday (13). The game promises to be a battle of styles between pragmatic Australians and an Indian side trying to make a mark in global football.

Australia, ranked 25 in FIFA’s list, come into the tournament as one of the favourites. Coach Graham Arnold said on the eve of the match that the Socceroos aim to lift the trophy once again after 2015 when they defeated South Korea 2-1 in extra time at home.

Australia also have happy memories in Qatar where they reached the round of 16 in the World Cup of 2022 where they lost to eventual champions Argentina 1-2. Arnold, who has been serving as the coach since 2018, said he had reinforced the message that the trophy was the ultimate goal.

Read: ‘Our goal is football World Cup qualifiers,’ says India football coach Stimac

“We’ve come here for a reason — to win this Asian Cup. It’s the only tournament that we probably can win,” Arnold told reporters.

“It is difficult, but we’re coming here to Qatar where we have a lot of familiarity, all the boys love coming here.

“You’ve got to reach for the stars and have high expectations, we’ll do that right from the start.”

Read: Impossible that India not a football power: Wenger

While the Australia coach conceded that established goalscorers have been in short supply for the Socceroos since Tim Cahill retired, he believed that the team’s defence will come to its aid.

India to play ‘fearless football’

India coach Igor Stimac acknowledged Australia’s skills saying they “know how to execute things and play pragmatic football”.

“Going to the flanks and putting in crosses, they made problems for England with set pieces. So we expect a storm coming from there,” he said, according to Reuters.

India, whose best result in Asian Cup came way back in 1964 when they finished as the runners-up, have had disappointing campaigns in their last two appearances in the tournament when they crashed out in the group stage.

But the Indian side is not ready to look much into the past statistics. Stimac, who took over the reins in 2019, said they eye playing “fearless football” in this tournament.

“We definitely didn’t come here to defend on the edge of the box. We’re going to go out there and try to enjoy football, as we did in the last four years,” Stimac said.

“That’s been the process we’ve been working on and if the defeat comes through that process, I have nothing against it.”

India are at 102 in FIFA’s rankings.

The last time the two teams met at the Asian Cup which is also their only meeting in the tournament till date, Australia won 4-0. They have played eight times so far with Australia winning five times, India twice while one game ended in a draw.

India and Australia are clubbed with Uzbekistan and Syria in Group B.

Hosts and defending champions Qatar will play the opening game of the tournament against Lebanon on Friday (12).

(With Reuters inputs)

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