Australia vs India: Preview and Prediction
The stage is set for a historic clash in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 as India takes on continental giants Australia in their opening Group B match on January 13th. The encounter scheduled for a 5:00 PM IST kick-off at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium promises to be a thrilling spectacle of contrasting styles and aspirations.
Australia enters the tournament as one of the favorites. The Socceroos, ranked 25th in the world compared to India’s 102nd, boast a wealth of experience and talent. Led by the prolific striker Mitchell Duke, the Australians are known for their potent attacking play and physical dominance and their recent run to the Round of 16 in the 2022 World Cup further underlines their pedigree.
Boasting the title of champions in 2015, Australia also has a rich history in the AFC Asian Cup. In the 2019 edition, they reached the quarter-finals, showcasing their prowess on the continental stage. The head-to-head statistics against India further underscore Australia’s dominance, winning 5 out of 8 encounters.
India making their only their fifth appearance in the tournament, arrives as the underdogs of the tournament. Led by the charismatic Sunil Chhetri, the Blue Tigers have shown remarkable tactical maturity and fighting spirit under coach Igor Stimac. They are coming on the back of a 0-3 loss against Qatar though, however, Stimac’s men had a pretty successful 2023 winning three trophies.
In their last game against Bahrain on January 6th 2024, Australia emerged victorious with a scoreline of 2-0. This follows a consistent trend of wins, including triumphs over Palestine, Bangladesh, and New Zealand.
India’s recent performances showcase a mixed bag of results. They secured a noteworthy victory against Kuwait on November 16, 2023, with a 1-0 scoreline, but encounters with Qatar, Malaysia, Lebanon, and Iraq resulted in a combination of losses and draws.
The Blue Tigers did win the SAFF Championship, Intercontinental Cup and the Tri-nation friendly tournament but the level of football in the continental clash will be much more superior.
Head to Head Record
The two teams have met 9 times but 5 of those 9 came in the pre-independence era. Australia dominates the rivalry between the two with a total of 5 wins. India has three victories over the Socceroos while one match ended in a draw.
The last time India faced Australia was way back at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where the Socceroos trashed the Blue Tigers 4-0. The legendary Tim Cahill hit a brace in that game while Harry Kewell and Brett Holman were the other players on target that night.
Interestingly, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were a part of the Indian team in that fateful clash.
India will have quite the task on their hands having lost three of its first-team regulars — central defender Anwar Ali, who is recuperating from an ankle injury; Ashique Kuruniyan, ruled out with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament); and Jeakson Singh, who could not recover from shoulder surgery in time.
For Australia, the omission of youngsters Alexander Robertson and Alessandro Circati has raised some eyebrows. Forward Mathew Leckie will also be missing due to his recurring injury which could lead to a decrease in the output upfront.
Predicted Starting XIs
India (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose; Suresh Singh Wangjam, Apuia Ralte; Manvir Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Lallianzuala Chhangte; Sunil Chhetri.
Australia (4-4-2): Joe Gauci; Jordan Bos, Cameron Burgess, Harry Souttar, Gethin Jones; Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Aiden O’Neil, Connor Metcalfe; Samuel Silvera, Mitchell Duke.
For India, the climb to the top of the mountains starts with an uphill battle against the Aussies in their first game. The Men In Blue will be keen to upset the odds and eke out a favorable result with an eye on the fact that they can make it to the knockouts even as one of the four third-best ranked teams across the six groups.