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2018 FIFA WCQ qualifying: India hope to avoid humiliation against Iran

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:02 IST

The Indian national football team will return to international action for the first time since clinching the SAFF Suzuki Cup earlier this year, when they take on Iran in their FIFA World Cup qualifying clash on Thursday, 24 March.

India, having lost their first five games of the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, defeated Guam in their sixth game in November.

Despite the win, India remain rooted to the bottom of the group; and with two games left, it looks unlikely that the Blue Tigers will finish anywhere above the last spot, with there being a four-point gap with fourth-placed Guam.

For Iran, the home clash against India on Thursday is expected to be a customary win, which will also ensure their safe progression to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers.

On the other hand, India need to avoid defeat in order keep alive their hopes of finishing above the bottom spot.

India will be without skipper Sunil Chhetri for the game, after the diminutive forward was ruled out due to a groin injury. In Chhetri's absence, Mohun Bagan striker Jeje Lalpekhlua will captain the side.

Gurpreet Singh is expected to start in goal, while Arnab Mondal, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan and Narayan Das are likely to feature in defence.

While it will be interesting to see whether head coach Stephen Constantine opts for a two-men or a three-men midfield, Holicharan Narzary is likely to start up front along with Jeje.

Prediction: Iran 5-0 India

Iran, arguably the best side in Asia, will be through to the third qualifying round with a win here, and anything other than an Iran win looks highly unlikely. India will miss the services of star man Chhetri up front, and will hope that their backline will be able to give the home side some stiff resistance.

However, the gulf between the two teams is immense, and India will be lucky to escape a hiding from the hosts in Tehran.

First published: 23 March 2016, 7:33 IST
 
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