India vs Lebanon: Preview and Prediction
For India, this match could prove to be a chance to experiment with the team and give opportunities to play who have not played much so far, as by winning their first two matches against Mongolia and Vanuatu, the Blue Tigers have already qualified for the final.
On the other hand, Lebanon is the favorite to be the second finalist, although their qualification is not confirmed yet. The Cedars started their campaign with a 3-1 win against Vanuatu but were then held to a 0-0 draw against Mongolia. Even if they lose this match, Lebanon will make it to the final as long as Mongolia does not beat Vanuatu by a big margin.
India started their campaign as they meant to go on, with a promising 2-0 win against Mongolia. In that match, Kerala Blasters midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad opened the scoring for Igor Stimac’s side, in just the 2nd minute of the game. Only 12 minutes later, Mumbai City’s pacey winger Lallianzuala Chhangte doubled India’s advantage.
However, the challenge was bigger in the second match against Vanuatu. Etienne Mermer’s boys put up a great fight against the hosts and were successful in keeping India quiet for the majority of the game. However, an 81st-minute strike from Sunil Chhetri ensured all three points for the Blue Tigers.
Like India, Lebanon too had a great start, as they defeated Vanuatu 3-1 in their first match. Nader Matar opened the scoring for the Cedars, and though John Wohale equalized for Vanuatu, goals from Hassan Kourani and Karim Darwich secured three points for Lebanon.
But Aleksandar Ilic’s team suffered an unlikely setback in the second match. Despite being 84 places behind their opponents, Mongolia restricted Lebanon to a goalless stalemate. Hassan Maatouk & Co. did create many opportunities, but none of those resulted in a goal.
Head to Head Record
When it comes to head-to-head records, Lebanon holds the edge. These two teams have met six times previously, where the Cedars have won three games, as compared to the Blue Tigers’ only one victory. The other two matches have ended in draws.
The last meeting between the two sides was way back in the 2009 Nehru Cup, where India suffered a 1-0 defeat. Centre-back Ali Al Saadi scored the winning goal for Lebanon in just the 4th minute of the match.
Since they are already in the final and the next few months will be busy for the Indian football team, Igor Stimac might choose to bench a few crucial players for this match. In defense, the experienced pair of Pritam Kotal and Sandesh Jhingan might be rested, with the highly talented youngsters Akash Mishra and Anwar Ali getting chances.
Samad was rested for the last match and he could return in this game at Rohit Kumar’s expense, with Apuia Ralte expected to replace fellow midfielder Rowllin Borges. As for the attacking department, Ishan Pandita could get a rare start, with Chhetri getting some much-deserved rest.
On the other hand, since some of his experiments did not work out against India, it is likely that Ilic will revert to his usual plans. Hence, Ansar defender Maxime Aoun is likely to return to defense, pairing with Tadamon Sour’s Mohammad El Hayek.
The midfield trio is unlikely to be changed, with Ali Tneich, Jihad Ayoud and Matar all retaining their places. In the attack, however, the goal-scorer against Mongolia, Darwich is expected to get his place back, with Penang winger Soony Saad making way for him.
Predicted Starting XIs
India (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Akash Mishra, Mehtab Singh, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose; Apuia Ralte, Sahal Abdul Samad; Nandhakumar Sekar, Liston Colaco, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Ishan Pandita.
Lebanon (4-3-3): Ali Sabeh; Hussein Zein, Maxime Aoun, Mohammad El Hayek, Walid Shour; Ali Tneich, Jihad Ayoub, Nader Matar; Khalil Bader, Hassan Maatouk, Karim Darwiche.
This could prove to be a do-or-die game for Lebanon, while because they are already in the finals, India might play a somewhat weakened side in this game. Hence, we have predicted the game to end in a stalemate.