Six players were unable to accompany the team that left Mumbai on Monday due to visa issues, but they arrived here on the day of the Bahrain match on Wednesday, and only Anirudh Thapa and Aniket Jadhav were allowed to play in that match against the hosts, that too. In the second half.
But against Belarus, head coach Igor Stimac is expected to use the services of defender Chinglensana Singh of Indian Super League winner Hyderabad FC, as well as midfielder Brandon Fernandes, who were among the six who landed here on Wednesday.
Sandesh Jhingan and Chinglensana have formed a formidable central defense pairing for the Blue Tigers in the past and are expected to team up in deep defense against Balarus, who are ranked 10 places above India at 94th.
But Stimac will be without the services of another defender, Mumbai City’s Rahul Bheke, who scored India’s only goal against Bahrain.
Stimac had earlier said that three Mumbai City players will leave Manama after the Bahrain match for their team’s AFC Champions League preparations.
However, another Mumbai City player, Bipin Singh, did not travel to Manama. He was one of the seven players who did not accompany the team due to visa issues and it did not make sense for him to travel to Manama to arrive on the day of the match (against Bahrain) and then return.
Stimac made his international debuts for five players – Anwar Ali, Danish Farooq, VP Suhair, Aniket and Roshan Singh – in the match against Bahrain and is expected to hand Kerala Blasters defender Ruivah Hormipam his first cap in India colours. against Belarus.
He is expected to field Jeakson Singh as well against Belarus as he will test so many players who did not get playing time against Bahrain.
The coach had said he would give playing time to almost all 25 players, except the goalkeepers, in the two friendly matches in Manama to see various combinations ahead of the Asian Cup qualifying final round in June in Kolkata.
However, Stimac had hinted that goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will play in both friendlies as he wanted stability at that crucial position as India will not play too many games ahead of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
“There will be big changes for the Belarus game. I want to introduce a new team with fresh faces and energy that will give us more stability on the passing front,” Stimac said before the match.
“Friendly matches are the best opportunity for players to have a chance to perform, and I think if you don’t take risks, you will never succeed,” he added.
Stimac said he wants his players to be brave enough to take risks.
“They need to understand to react more once they lose a ball,” he said.
For Belarus, this would be their first international friendly match this year. In the last year, they played some top ranked teams like Belgium, Wales (20th) and the Czech Republic (31st) and the top ranked in the world. His last game was a 1-0 win against Jordan in November of last year.
India’s match against Belarus was, in fact, initially in doubt as the Indian Football Federation wanted to avoid playing the Eastern European country in view of its support for Russia in the invasion of Ukraine. World governing body FIFA had banned Russia from participating in international matches, but had not done so against Belarus.
Speaking of Belarus, Stimac said: “Belarus is a very well known opposition to me. They are much more technical than Bahrain. They recently played higher ranked teams like Belgium and Wales.
“They play much more defensive and counter-attacking football. But I don’t see them as defensive against us,” Stimac said.