Virtually out of reckoning for qualification to the 2018 World Cup after four defeats from four games, a beleaguered Indian football team would look to salvage some pride and put up a decent performance against higher-ranked Oman in a World Cup qualifying round match in Muscat on Tuesday, 13 October.
India are without a win in their World Cup qualifying campaign, even losing to lower-ranked Guam and pressure has been piling on the players and coach Stephen Constantine who took up the job early this year.
In the five-team group, India are yet to open account and have scored just three goals so far. They face an uphill task against Oman, ranked 102nd in FIFA charts as against the 167th of India. The last time the two teams faced off earlier in this round, Oman had won 2-1 in Bengaluru.
Constantine's boys would surely be the underdogs for Tuesday's match as Oman are high on confidence after holding the continent's highest-ranked team, Iran, to a 1-1 draw on October 8 at home.
On top of that, the Indians are short on practice as they have lost at least a day's training after being stranded in Ashgabat due to non-availability of flights after their 1-2 loss to Turkmenistan.
The Indians were thoroughly outplayed by Turkmenistan in their previous match and Constantine's boys had very few shots at the rival goal.
The defence looked suspect every time Turkmenistan played the long ball. They were slow to react and the lack of fitness was showing.
The back four struggled and Turkmenistan forwardline wrecked havoc. Had it not been for goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's reflexes, the margin could have been more.
Against Oman tomorrow, the Indian defence will hold the key as the frailties of the back four was exposed in the first leg played in Bangalore in June.
Qasim Said, known for his speed at the flanks, put Oman ahead in the opening minute when Indian defenders were still warming up to the game. Then a needless tackle inside the box saw India concede a penalty which was converted by Imad Al Hosni in the 40th minute -- the visitors made to pay the price for lack of concentration.
Sunil Chhetri could pull off a stunning goal midway through the first half but the Indians never seriously looked like a side which could beat a team like Oman.