Category: International

Korea DPR edge Tajikistan to crown Intercontinental Cup champions

AHMEDABAD: DPR Korea were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 winners as they completed a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan in the final on Friday (July 19, 2019) at the EKA Arena, Ahmedabad. It was a second-half strike from substitute Pak Hyon Il that made the difference on the night and sealed the win for his team.

The first half began with DPR Korea dominating proceedings and enjoying more possession and chances. However, they could not make them count as both teams entered the break with the scoreline goalless and DPR Korea’s skipper Jong Il Gwan coming closest to finding the net in the 20th minute.

After some fine build-up play down the right, Ri Hyong Jin launched a powerful effort from distance that was spilled by Tajikistan custodian Rustam Yatimov. Gwan latched on to the rebound but his first-time effort went wide of the goal.

The Koreans continued to press for the opener and almost got it in the second minute of added time in the first half. Once again, it was Gwan who connected with a cross from the right but was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Tajikistan started posing a few threats of their own in the second half, the first of which came through Sheriddin Boboev, whose curling effort from 25 yards out in the 51st minute just went past the post.

Eight minutes later, Komron Tursonov showed some quick thinking to fashion a chance for his side but his shot was turned away past the post by DPR Korea keeper An Tae Song.

It was DPR Korea that continued to look more dangerous and they finally made their dominance count as substitute Pak Hyon Il opened the scoring in the 71st minute. Latching on to a pass inside the box from Gwan, Pak fired in a shot that deflected off a defender and looped over the keeper and into the net.

Five minutes from time, Tajikistan had a golden chance to equalise, but were denied by the woodwork. A free-kick from the right found substitute Tokhir Maladustov’s head but his effort hit the crossbar and went back into play, with the rebound going shot wide.

The Koreans saw out the game and as a result, they were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 champions – winning a sum of $50,000 for the same. Tajikistan finished in the runners-up spot, which fetched them $25,000. DPR Korea skipper Jong Il Gwan was named the Hero of the Tournament for his three goals in the competition, as well as the match-winning assist in the final. He was awarded a sum of $7,500.

In the post-match press conference, DPR Korea head coach Yun Jong Su hailed the Hero Intercontinental Cup as a “beautiful tournament”. He said, “We are grateful to AIFF for organising this beautiful tournament. The confidence of winning is always so positive. Despite the triumph, we need to work on certain areas. The beauty of the Hero Intercontinental Cup was that we now also know our shortcomings.”

Tajikistan head coach Usman Toshev stated that the result was a “big lesson” for his side ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. He said, “We congratulate DPR Korea on the victory. Looking back, I feel we lacked the stamina. However, this was a big lesson for us ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.”


NEW DELHI: India were drawn with Asian Champions Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in Group E in the AFC Draw for the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 which was held at the AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur earlier today (July 17, 2019). This was also the draw for the preliminary joint qualification Round 2 for the AFC Asian Cup, China 2023.

Moments after the draw, Indian Senior National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac labelled it as “a very tough challenge.”

“It will be an enormous challenge for your young team. We have been drawn into a very tough group,” Stimac stated.

Meanwhile, welcoming all delegates at the draw ceremony, AFC General Secretary, Dato Windsor John said the “focus of World is clearly on Asia.”

“The day marks the beginning of an exciting journey for Asia’s top 40 teams. The top 12 teams qualify automatically for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023, and they will move closer to qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” he said. “It’s fitting that Asia kicked-off this qualification as we will host World Cup finals for only the second time.”

Without singling out any single team, Stimac stated that “we need to respect every opposition.”

“We need to respect everyone – not only just teams from Pot 1, and Pot 2, but even teams from Pot 3, and Pot 4 too,” the Coach explained. “The Hero Intercontinental Cup showed to all how strange a game Football us. The two teams which are playing the final (Tajikistan, and DPR Korea) are the lowest FIFA ranked teams in the tournament. That shows that everyone can beat everyone,” the Coach stated.

“I will teach the team to respect the opposition, but when we step on to the pitch, we will do everything to win. That is the way I am going to prepare my team. We are just at the beginning of our journey. I hope that it will be a long one,” he added.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Syria hold India 1-1

AHMEDABAD: The Indian National Team drew 1-1 against Syria in their last match of the 2019 Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad today (July 16, 2019) to finish their Hero Intercontinental Cup campaign.

18-year-old Narender Ghelot’s 51st-minute header was cancelled out by Firas Al-Khatib’s 78th-minute penalty kick as both teams shared the spoils of the battle, in a match largely involving end-to-end action where both teams had a number of chances.

The Blue Tigers started the match on an attacking note and Udanta Singh’s cross as early as the 2nd minute rang the danger bells for the Syrians, but a prying Sunil Chhetri in the box could not do any damage as the opponents survived.

A minute later, Almarmour had a golden opportunity to take the lead for Syria after he went clear onto goal with only Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to beat. The Syrian, however, scooped his shot wide of the net as India survived an early setback.

Chances for India were far from scarce. In the 6th minute, Udanta Singh cut in from the right flank and sent a low cross into the box which went astray, despite Sunil Chhetri, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Abdul Sahal being in the box but being unable to make contact with the delivery.

In the 22nd minute, Pritam Kotal tried to release Udanta Singh once again onto goal but his through ball was a bit too much and ran away for a goal-kick. Gupreet Singh Sadhu was called into action in the 24th minute when a thunderous header from inside the Indian box was plucked easily by him.

A frantic half, where both teams had a flurry of chances, could not result in any goal as both teams fluffed in front of goal and went into the tunnel at half-time on level pegging as the scoreline read 0-0.

Changing over, the Blue Tigers had to wait little for their reward. In the 51st minute, Narender Ghelot, who made his debut in India’s clash against Tajikistan, found the back of the Syria net with a thunderous header connecting off Anirudh Thapa’s corner, to give India the lead.

The goal gave the Blue Tigers much confidence and India started to dominate possession in the middle of the park with Sunil Chhetri and co. jotting down a couple of passes to frustrate the opposition, keeping hold of the ball with much ease.

The Indian defence kept Syria shut in the second half and an inspired performance by Rahul Bheke and goalscorer Narender, coupled with pressure from the midfield suffocated Syria. But Syria were awarded a penalty kick, much against the run of play, in the 78th minute, and Firas made the most out of it, equalising the opponent’s deficit to make the scoreline read 1-1.

Syria tried to breach India’s defence once again but could not as the full-time scoreline read 1-1. With Syria dropping points, DPR Korea advance to the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup on July 19, 2019 where they will clash against Tajikistan.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Anas wants win for the fans against Syria

AHMEDABAD: The last match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 group stage will see the Blue Tigers take on Syria in Ahmedabad on Tuesday (July 16, 2019).

Defender Anas Edathodika, who came out of his International retirement stated the team is “working very hard” to clinch the three points.

Anas, who was summoned by Head Coach Igor Stimac, however, isn’t in the final 23, but has been practicing with the rest of the squad in Ahmedabad.

“We really want to win the match against Syria,” Anas said at a media interaction, before adding: “The coach is working with the players on an individual basis. He is talking to them one-by-one as we are gearing up for the game. The focus is on identifying the mistakes, working on them, and rectifying them. I’m sure the players will give their best.”

He thanked the supporters in Ahmedabad for their continuous support over the two games, saying that the team wants to win the third match “for the fans.” 

“It’s a huge motivation for us, and a great sight to see a packed stadium. We are thankful for their support and hope to grab a victory.”

Anas, who was part of the Indian side that lifted the Hero Intercontinental Cup last year maintained the players are concerned at conceding soft goals.

“We have conceded some avoidable goals in the last two matches. It is a cause of concern for the players.”

”Football is a team game. When we concede, it falls on the entire team, and when we score the credit goes to everyone. We have a different system under the new coach and it will take time to grow in to it,” he mentioned.

The coach had previously spoken about using the Hero Intercontinental Cup as a preparatory platform for the upcoming 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and according to Anas, the Blue Tigers are looking to make the most of “playing against quality teams”.

“All three oppositions are very tough. It’s great that we have got the chance to prepare against such quality sides. The time we have to prepare is precious. We are looking to make the most of it,” he said.

The central defender also spoke about his return to the National team, and how the coach convinced him to reverse his decision. 

“When the coach called me back, it felt like going back home and playing again for my motherland. After the AFC Asian Cup exit, it was an emotional time for me. I had my personal reasons to leave. However, he told me about his plans and after speaking to him, I thought I am ready to take on this challenge again.”

India still have a mathematical chance of making it to the final provided Tajikistan beat DPR Korea in their last group league match.

UAE born Sahal feel moving to India changed his life

NEW DELHI: Prior to the Blue Tigers’ departure for the 2019 King’s Cup, talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri had quipped: “Sahal (Abdul Samad) is an extremely gifted talent. He is someone who really excites me. I don’t know if people have watched a lot of Sahal, but if that guy is fit, he’s got proper talent.”

Since then, Sahal has gone on to make his International debut, and though Igor Stimac’s boys have lost three of the last four, the midfielder has been one of India’s standout performers in the middle of the park with his combination of skill, and work rate.

Sahal was also voted the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year 2018-19 by the coaches of the Hero I-League, and Hero ISL clubs. “It’s difficult to explain in words – the feeling,” the 22-year-old said. “I am trying my best. I have worn the National jersey but I know I have a lot to do. I have to keep working hard, and get selected for the next set of games.”

A natural ball-playing midfielder, Sahal’s dribbling and passing abilities catch the eye, as he provides his coaches a number of options, thanks to his versatility.

“Training with the team and learning from the new coach has been wonderful. We are looking to keep, and pass the ball while attacking. We aim to create multiple threats for our opponents,” the talented midfielder added.

Born in Al-Ain, UAE, he completed his schooling from Al Ain before coming to India for his college degree – a decision which was aided by elder brother Fazil. And that allowed him to pursue his footballing dream.

“I first played football for my school team in the 8th standard. Then I started playing 7s in Dubai, and joined an Academy as well. However, the turning point came when I shifted to India,” Sahal recalls.

A few months after starting his degree, his talent was spotted by coach Siddique of SN College in Kannur who convinced him to switch colleges. From there, Sahal never looked back. After excelling at University-level tournaments, he soon found a place in the district U-21 side, and then the Kerala team for the Santosh Trophy, while also playing a little in the local 7s scene.

For the 2017-18 season, he was signed by ISL side Kerala Blasters for their reserve team, and was promoted to the senior side in the same period as well.

“Playing through the college system was a great experience,” Sahal explains. “I never knew a player could come through the university-level ranks, and play for India so quickly. I owe a lot to my coach who believed in me, and gave me a chance. I had to re-do my first year of college again but in the end, it was certainly worth it,” he smiles.

Sahal is one of the youngest members in this fresh-looking Indian line-up, which also features a number of seasoned campaigners from whom Sahal has “learnt a lot.”

“There’s so much one can learn from the senior players! They have a wealth of experience, and teach us a lot on and off the pitch. Small tips such as taking care of our diet, dealing with pressure, playing our natural game, go a long way in helping newcomers like us,” he expressed.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Korea DPR slay India to dump out of the competition

AHMEDABAD: India’s desperate attempt in the second half wasn’t enough as they went down 2-5 to DPR Korea in their second match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday (July 13).

With two losses in as many games, India still have a chance of making it to the final, provided they beat Syria by a huge margin in their next match, and hope Tajikistan beat DPR Korea in the other.

While Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sunil Chhetri scored one each to reduce the margin for India, DPR Korea captain Jong Il Gwan was the star of the show scoring two, and assisting another. Furthermore, Sim Hyon Jin, and Ri Un Chol, and Ri Hyon Kin scored one apiece for the winners.

Indian National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac said that there was “courage, and confidence on display in the second half.”

“In the second-half, we came out with out with heads up. We had the courage, and confidence when we decided to play football. In the first-half, we played without courage and self- confidence,” he stated in the post-match press conference.

“I gave the players the chance to play for India and asked them to enjoy their football. But if you do not show courage, and fight you cannot win,” he added.

“In the second-half, we started taking responsibility, and created chances. We were dangerous in front of their goal. But it was difficult to keep shape, and go up and down continuously. But I’m proud of the way they played,” the Coach explained.

Down 0-3 in the first half, a couple of changes by India Head Coach Igor Stimac at half-time brought back the thrust for India. The introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Udanta Singh in place of Manvir Singh, and Brandon Fernandes provided India the much-needed impetus.

The Blue Tigers pulled one back soon when Sunil Chhetri latched on to a stray ball, and played Chhangte through the channel. The latter, took control, and smashed it into the bottom corner. However, Ri Chol soon added a fourth for Korea, after being played through by captain Gwon.

In the 71st minute, Sunil Chhetri managed another one for India – his 71st International goal off a cross from Udanta.

India next play Syria in their last group league match on July 16.

India bow out of AFC U-23 Championships qualifiers

TASHKENT: The Indian U-23 National Team ended their AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers campaign with a 2-0 loss to Tajikistan in their second match of the group stage at the Pakhtakor stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan today (March 24, 2019).

Daler Yodgorov’s 30th minute strike and Solehov’s 85th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign ending without a point out of a maximum six.

The opponents had mounted a barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match, trying to unsettle the Indian defence but some astute goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh kept them at bay. In the 10th minute, the custodian made a fine save to deny the opponents an early breakthrough.

India could have surged ahead into lead in the 12th minute but Sarthak Golui’s header off a Komal Thatal free-kick failed to find the net, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines; courtesy of an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound.

After a nervy start, the Indian team found themselves some bright spots and in the 27th minute, Rahim Ali found Komal Thatal inside the box. With defenders closing in, Komal could only launch the ball over the woodwork in an attempt to give India the lead.

India’s attacking momentum was short-lived as Tajikistan took the lead in the 30th minute with Daler finding the back of the India net from inside the box.

Attempting to find the equalizer before half-time, Rahim Ali went on a run down the middle and found Anirudh Thapa, whose shot was blocked by the Tajik defence line.

The urgency for the equalizer for India kept them on their toes and soon after the second half re-started, India cajoled an opportunity in the 48th minute. Rahim Ali brought the ball down inside the box and passed it to an onrushing Abdul Sahal, who failed to hit the target from outside the box.

Restricting the opponents in the half for much of the second half, India had a chance in the 60th minute and once again it fell to Sarthak Golui, who this time headed wide from a Vinit Rai free-kick.

India tried to keep Tajikistan on the defence and score the equalizer but could not find the decisive goal. Tajikistan held on to their slender lead and committed bodies in defence. The opponents scored through Solehov in the 85th minute and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read 2-0 in their favour. 

India lose to Uzbekistan in AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers opener

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN: India suffered a 0-3 loss at the hands of defending champions Uzbekistan in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday, March 22. 

Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov put the home team in front via a first-half penalty, before second-halfsubstitute Bobir Abdixolikov netted twice in the last 10 minutes to take the game away from the Blue Tigers. 

India started creating chances early on, as Rahul KP was played through on the flank by Anwar Ali. The Keralite attacker put in a cross, but Daniel could not connect with it in time. 

However, Uzbekistan started pressing high up the pitch after the initial exchanges, and they got a good chance around the half-hour mark when Alijanov Ilkhomjon was played through inside the six-yard-box by Amonov Azizbek, but Vinit Rai stepped in with the crucial block. 

Uzbekistan laid the proverbial siege on the Indian third ahead of the half time break, but the Indian defence held on for dear life, with Anwar Ali making some brave interceptions deep inside the penalty area. 

Their efforts finally paid off in injury time of the first half, when Uzbekistan were awarded a penalty. Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov made no mistake, as he slotted it into the bottom corner to put the home side in the lead. 

That game wind in the Uzbek sails and the home side came out with more attacking intent in the second half. Chances were at a premium for India, and Daniel had another opportunity to score, when substitute Komal Thatal, who had come on for Rahul KP, crossed it towards him. However, Daniel could not get onto the end of the cross, and the chance went begging. 

India centreback Gaurav Bora dug out a couple of important interceptions in the second half, helping out goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who was caught off his line, but Bobir Abdixolikov eventually doubled the lead with a little over 10 minutes of regulation time left. 

Five minutes later, Abdixolikov made it 3-0 for the home side, ending Indian hopes of a comeback. KomalThatal lit up the eyes of the Indian fans with a jinking run from the left wing, as he cut inside and let one rip, but his shot thudded off the woodwork. 

India are set to play their final qualifier against Tajikistan on Sunday, March 24.

India rout higher ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in International friendly

By Ujjal Sarkhel

Mumbai: Young Team India routed a higher ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in an international friendly match played at Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai on Saturday.

The Blue Tigers fell behind early to an Emanuel Sanchez (8th) strike but replied only eight minutes later through Narayan Das (16th) and then two quick goals from Sunil Chettri (24th) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (33rd) give them a two goal advantage before and Jackichand Singh (59th) put the final nail in the coffin.

Now if we talk about the match from first minute, Puerto Rico started the game with very well aggressive mode. They placed some good attack by using flanks putting the Indian defense under serious threat in the initial minutes.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the 8th minute from a spot kick. Jackichand fouled a Puerto Rico man inside the box which referee gave penalty to the visitors. Striker Sanchez did no mistake to score from the spot kick.

Having conceded, India, who started with Sunil and Jeje upfront, dominated majority of the proceedings looking for the equaliser. In the 17th minute, Bikash Jairu was brought down just on the edge of the box and Sunil shouldered the duty to taking the free-kick. His right footed effort hit the woodeork but left back Narayan scored with the follow up giving the rival custodian no chance.

The goal gave the Stephen Constantine-coached side much-needed confidence as they stormed ahead via Sunil. Andrea tripped down Sunil at the edge of the box which earned a free-kick for India and Sunil did no mistake to curl into the top left corner in the 24th minute.

After taking the lead India looked more dangerous as they placed a host of attacks in the Puerto Rico box and Jeje once again showed his goal scoring ability in the 33rd minute. Sunil after receiving a long ball from Pritam Kotal fed it to Jeje who headed home to make the scoreline steeper for the visitors.

The boys in the blue headed towards the dressing room with a handsome lead of 3-1.

India introduced Rowllin Borges and Halicharan Narzary at the expenses of Bikash Jairu and Pronay Halder at the begining of the second session.

Halicharan made a immediate impact and almost got an assist in the 47th minute, but his long ball was too heavy for Eugeneson Lyngdoh who was trying to cut in from the right flank.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico went agonisingly close through substitute Ramos but the woodwork came in for India’s help.

Around the hour mark Jackichand Singh finally got his name on the scoresheet when he smashed the roof of the net. Jeje delivered a delightful cross from the left to Eugeneson who just flicked it for Jackichand and the winger slotted home.

In the remainder of the game, Puerto Rico did show some excellent moves in patches but they could not convert chances as India held on for a well-deserved 4-1 win.

Young Team India set to host a high-ranked Puerto Rico

By Ajay Majumder

MUMBAI: Indian  National Football team will host Puerto Rico in a international friendly match at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai on Saturday.

This will be the first time since November 2011 when a non-Asian country visits India after Zambia, and also the first occasion in two years when India hosting a high-ranked opponent after Palestine in October 2014.

Recently, India have been on a good form, having defeated Laos 7-1 on aggregate in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers in June. Then the Blue Tigers went on to defeat Bhutan 3-0 in a unofficial game last month at Thimpu, Bhutan.

Indian coach Stephen Constantine, who has introduced 32 new faces in International Football since taking over in Januray 2015, will once again rely on a bunch of young side beside seniors like Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Arnab Mondal.

“We are very motivated to play against a high-ranked opponent. If you want to go higher it’s important that you play against stronger sides. I would rather lose 4-0 to Iran than win 3-0 against a weaker Nation,” Constantine said.

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will lead the Blue Tigers tomorrow against Puerto Rico.

On the other hand, Puerto Rico, who are placed 114 in the FIFA Rankings, came to India with almost a full-strength squad and the islanders are looking to use this game as an avenue to assess their squad ahead of the 2017 Caribbean Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda.

Led by Spanish coach Carlos García Cantarero, Puerto Rico lost 0-1 to Dominican Republic in their last fixture on August 30, came here without their all time top scorer Hector Ramos.

Along with Ramos two other strikers in Jorge Rivera and Joseph Marrero have also skipped the tour for dispute with the Puerto Rican Football Federation over daily allowance for expenses and the absence of three first-team strikers would definately weaken the Puerto Rico front-line.

However, that was not the end of Puerto Rico’s misery as the entire team had missed their to Mumbai from New York on Thursday and only reach here on this evening but their coach Carlos García Cantarero stays positive ahead of the clash and hopes for a good competitive match.

Speaking about the opponenets India coach Constantine said, “Puerto Rico were one of the best movers in the FIFA Rankings. They are a good side with many good Players. Yes, one may mention about their landing timing in Mumbai but you cannot take away their quality.”

The game at the Andheri Sports Complex kicks off at 8.00 pm on Saturday will be telecast live on Star Sports 2.