FBL-ASIA-2019-IND-BHR

King's Cup: 3 Things to Look Forward to as India Face Curacao

India take on Curacao in their first match since the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in their semi-final encounter at the King's Cup at the Thunder Castle Stadium in Buriram, Thailand. 


This will be the the Blue Tigers first match under new coach Igor Stimac, who would be keen to get his reign off to a winning start. The Croatian conducted a two-week preparatory camp for 37 probables, before he cut down the squad to 23 players. 


Despite doing well in their opening two Asian Cup encounters, the Indians lost the third game against Bahrain, and ended up going out of the tournament, after looking like they would qualify for the knockout stages at one point.


The team's ultra-defensive approach under Stephen Constantine was criticised often and it remains to be seen how Stimac alters that. 


Here are three things to look forward to as India face Curacao at the King's Cup:

3. Curacao's Quality and Top Level Experience

A small Caribbean nation, Curacao have gone from 183 in the FIFA rankings to a very respectable 82nd rank in the last five years. 


Cuco Martina, who plays for Feyenoord on loan from Everton, and Leandro Bacuna, who plays for Cardiff City, are their stars, they have a strong squad that has good experience of playing in Europe's top leagues. Many of their players have played in the Netherlands in the past, with a few plying their trade in the Eredivisie. 


Technically solid and athletic, the Curacaoan national team will prove to be a tough nut to crack for the Indians. However, they have played only one match in 2019, against Antigua & Barbuda, and lost 2-1 in what was CONCACAF Nations League qualifier. 


Despite that, they should go into the game as favourites to get the win.

2. Stimac's Attack-minded Approach

The new coach has picked just five defenders in his squad, with Adil Khan and Rahul Bheke joining Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose. That indicates that Stimac has decided his core defensive group for the moment, and trusts them to do the job. 


In midfield, he has made some very interesting selections, with the likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, Michael Soosairaj and Raynier Fernandes brought it. It is clear that the Croatian is looking to build around his midfield and has selected technically adept, flair players who can help keep the ball. 


The average age of the team has gone down further from the Asian Cup, when it was just over 25. Stimac's squad has an average age of 24 and that bodes well for the future. 

1. Chhetri and Bacuna the Players to Keep an Eye on

As Igor Stimac continues working with his team, he will be able to identify their qualities better and get a better understanding of who his best players are. For the moment, captain Sunil Chhetri is the talisman and leading the team to victory would be his responsibility. 


His role might be slightly different from under Constantine, as he might be expected to play more of a role in building up play. 


Leandro Bacuna remains Curacao's best player and his ability to make late runs into the box and get on the end of balls makes him a danger to the Indian team. He has scored nine goals in 19 matches for his country and connects defence with attack.

Three things to look forward to as India face Curacao in the King's Cup