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Soccer turns shocker

Indians went into the break 1-1 but the wheels came off in the second half, and it was more due to fatigue

Soccer turns shocker
Chennaiyin FC’s Rahim Ali in the match against China

HANGZHOU: A severely-fatigued and under-prepared Indian team got a rude reality check with hosts China, outplaying India 5-1 in the opening group league encounter of the Asian Games football competition on Tuesday.

Giao Tianyi (17th min), Dai Wei Tsun (51st min), Tao Qianglong (72nd and 75th minute) and Hao Fang (90+2) scored for the hosts, while Rahul KP’s (45+1 minute) goal for India from an acute angle was possibly the best strike of the match. It was heartening to see a second-string team holding the title contenders on an even keel during the first 45 minutes, which saw Indian custodian Gurmeet Singh valiantly, save a spot-kick taken by rival captain Zhu Chenjie.

India now needs to beat Bangladesh and Myanmar in its remaining two games to qualify for the second round. Myanmar beat Bangladesh 4-2 in another game in this group.

Having reached the Games Village late on Monday evening, the Indian team, with not even four specialist defenders in its ranks, didn’t have enough co-ordination amongst themselves. They looked jet-lagged, not rested enough and there was no way that there could have been a miracle.

The gulf in class and quality was evident and most of the Chinese attacks happened from India’s wide left side, which was being manned by youngster Sumit Rathi. It became a free-ride for the Chinese attackers.

Also, the humidity and lack of training time had its effect as the Indians didn’t have the legs to last beyond the first hour. And, once the second goal was scored due to Sandesh Jhingan’s poor anticipation, the floodgates opened.

A lot of Indian players suffered from cramps at the latter stages of the match owing to humidity and, obviously, not having enough time to train. Skipper Sunil Chhetri didn’t see the ball as much as he would have wanted to, he lacked support and Rahim Ali wasn’t at his best as well for the game. The Indians started concentrating more on the defensive part trying to stop the waves of Chinese attack. The only silver-lining was the goal by Rahul KP, the former U-17 World Cupper, who was set free on the wide right by Abdul Rabeeh and the Kerala Blasters player sprinted and smashed it in from near zero degree, much to the awe of a capacity home crowd.

Indians went into the break 1-1 but the wheels came off in the second half, and it was more due to fatigue.

Most of these players are not even first-choice substitutes for their respective ISL clubs and it was evident that match fitness was a big issue.

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