Indian football

India will take on Vanuatu in their second fixture of the Hero Inter Continental Cup 2023. Follow this space for all live updates.

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Vanuatu vs India: Preview

Looking to strengthen their claim for a spot in the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, the India Senior Men’s Team will take on Vanuatu today at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar at 19:30 IST. Today’s match will be broadcasted and streamed live on Star Sports 2/HD, Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV.

The Blue Tigers saw off Mongolia 2-0 in their tournament opener, while Vanuatu went down 1-3 to Lebanon. So, as things stand, the Blue Tigers will confirm their place in the final on Monday itself should they win and Mongolia fail to win against Lebanon in the earlier kick-off.

India head coach Igor Stimac didn’t have many complaints from his boys after the smooth victory over Mongolia. He also admitted that there should’ve been more goals. India did all the damage in the opening quarter of an hour with quick-fire goals from Sahal Abdul Samad and Lallianzuala Chhangte. The duo guided India to a sixth straight victory on home soil.

“I was most impressed with the players’ intention of adding to the game we’ve been practising during the training sessions,” said Stimac.

The visiting teams have found it tough to deal with Bhubaneswar’s hot and humid conditions. However, Stimac claimed that that would give his side the upper hand in the tournament. “The weather does make a lot of impact on the pitch, but we need to be honest that we have an advantage in that sense because we’ve already trained here for more than three weeks. With what we saw in the Vanuatu-Lebanon match, a few players went off injured in the first half, so it’s clear that it will be difficult for them to cope in such conditions,” said the Croatian.

The senior India national team will be facing Vanuatu for the first time tonight. However, the Indian U-18 squad had previously toured Vanuatu in 2019, beating them 1-0 en route to winning the OFC Youth Development Tournament in Port Vila. Only Akash Mishra from that team will be a part of the senior fixture.

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Akash Mishra in action for India

Sharing his thoughts on the possible challenge posed by the 164-ranked Vanuatu side, Stimac said, “We took everything (about Vanuatu) from the game they played against Lebanon. It’s obvious that they are a physical side. They have their strengths and weaknesses, so we need to get ready for such a game.”

The first matchday of the Hero Intercontinental Cup was a story of set pieces. All three goals Vanuatu conceded against Lebanon were from dead-ball situations. Two of them were from corners and a penalty – while the Melanesians themselves also scored from a training ground free-kick routine. Similarly, India’s second goal against Mongolia was a result of Anirudh Thapa’s pin-point delivery from the corner. Thus, set pieces could be of real importance for Stimac’s men on Monday.

Despite the defeat against Lebanon, Vanuatu head coach Etienne Mermer was proud of his side and had encouraging words to say. “We knew it was going to be difficult against a tough side like Lebanon, but it was a good game. Being here is a great experience for the Vanuatu team. We’ve never played teams like India, Lebanon and Mongolia before. It’s always challenging to play in Asia,” he said.

“It is an outstanding stadium here. It’s a new experience for the boys to play on such pitches. We don’t have facilities like these back in Vanuatu. We’re really enjoying here and are looking forward to facing India on Monday,” Mermer added.

The Vanuatu coach also shared insights on his squad. He said, “We mostly have local players in our squad except for two forwards (Azariah Soromon and Alex Saniel) who play for Suva FC (Fiji) and captain Brian Kaltack, who plays in the A-League for Central Coast Mariners. The boys are giving their everything and doing whatever we ask from them.”

Where to Watch?

The match will be telecasted live on Star Sports Network and live-streamed on Disney+Hotstar and JioTV.

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By Debojyoti Sarkar

Rabbits don't win marathons, the tortoise does.