India vs Mongolia: Preview and Prediction
As the 2022-23 club football season in India concludes, it’s time for Indian football fans to drop their club colours and don all blues to show their support towards the Blue Tigers. India will kick-start their international football campaign with participation in the 2023 Intercontinental Cup in order to aim for goldware in the upcoming SAFF Championship.
The action-packed contest between India and Mongolia is going to be the opening fixture for both nations and will be played at the tournament’s solitary venue of Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Kalinga Stadium which also acts as the home venue for the Indian national team and Odisha will be hosting all fixtures including the final.
The tradition of the Intercontinental Cup competition continues with India set to host three new countries join the roster to make a claim on the trophy. It will be a ten-day international saga that will commence with a double-header on Friday while the final fixture is scheduled on the 18th of June 2023.
The Blue Tigers were crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the Intercontinental Cup in 2018 after defeating the African counterparts Kenya by 2-0 in the finals. However, the hosts could not sustain further the triumphant run in the following edition when higher-ranked sides joined the roster and finished fourth without winning a single game.
They are once considered favorites to grace the champions after being the second-highest ranked participant but the primary focus of the gaffer Stimac and his boys will be on the regional competition scheduled right after this tournament.
Meanwhile, Mongolia previously hosted the Group B fixtures AFC Asian Cup qualifier third round but couldn’t make it to the final tournament after finishing third in the group standings with only a single win. The Blue Wolves have turned up for this subcontinent challenge with the ultimate aim to claim their first-ever team honour since joining FIFA in 1998.
After a successful campaign in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, India featured in multiple international friendlies in March to keep the core intact. The Blue Tigers faced neighborhood rivals Myanmar in the first friendly at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium of Imphal and emerged victorious by 1-0. Their next battle was up against the CAFA member Kyrgyzstan where goals from the skipper Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan kept the all-blues on the winning side of the 2-0 scoreline.
On the other hand, Mongolia is also returning to the international campaign after a halt of two months. Their most recent appearance was an away friendly clash with the European side Georgia at Adjarabet Arena of Batumi. The Mongol Wolves scored a 31st-minute equaliser to make it 1-1 however, the Crusaders staged a comeback and eventually succeeded with a final scoreline of 6-1.
Despite making their first appearance in 1942 against Japan, Mongolia became a member of FIFA in 1998 and got exposed to regular international football only after then. The Mongols were yet to face many Asian heavyweights after not being able to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup to date. Hence these two combatant nations never got an opportunity to face each other as this forthcoming fixture is going to be their first-ever face-off.
Mongolia’s Japanese head coach Ichiro Otsuka entrusts the 4-4-2 as a primary formation and often reverts to 5-3-2 according to the opponent’s style of play. They are expected to make no changes in the starting lineup which took the battlefield against Georgia in March. The scoring responsibilities of the Blue Wolves will be on the shoulders of the winger Baljinnyam Batbold and the 22-year-old attacking sensation Ganbayar Ganbold.
Igor Stimac was forced to narrow down the 27-men Indian squad to 26 players owing to the injuries of the holding midfielder Suresh Singh Wangjam and Mumbai City goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa.
The Hyderabad goalkeeper Gurmeet Singh Chahal has replaced the Sikkimese shot-stopper as the third-choice goalie while the replacement of Wangjam is yet to be announced. Rowllin Borges has made a surprising return to the national team after a two-year break and the veteran midfielder is likely to be seen on the field in the absence of Suresh.
Predicted Starting XIs
India (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra; Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa; Lison Colaco, Sahal Abdul Samad, Lallianzuala Chhangte; Sunil Chhetri
Mongolia (4-4-2): Munkh-Erdene Enkhtaivan; Oyunbaatar Otgonbayar, Bayartsengel Purevdorj, Munkh-Orgil Orkhon, Bilguun Ganbold; Narmandakh Artag, Tsend-Ayush Khurelbaatar (c), Dulguun Tuvshinjargal, Baljinnyam Batbold; Ganbayar Ganbold, Namsrai Baatartsogt
Igor Stimac should not commit the mistake of undermining Mongolia as their rise in recent times states that the Blue Wolves are very well capable of upsetting the big shots. Although the Blue Tigers are ultimate favourites to conquer not only this forthcoming fixture but the whole competition as well.
India outclasses their Asian counterparts through on-paper strength and can register a comfortable win if they are able to utilise the home conditions accordingly.