Blunder-ridden India pay the price, lose 0-3 to Vietnam

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The Indian team were a goal down by the 10th minute and could muster just one move in the first 20 minutes in the international friendly versus Vietnam.

Captain Sandesh Jhingan crashed into goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Anwar Ali misjudged a header and substitute Rahul KP’s failed in a clearance – that is how India conceded three goals to Vietnam. Three mistakes, all speckled across different moments, contributed to the Indian national team going down at the Thống Nhất Stadium in Ho Chi Minh city on Tuesday in an international friendly. Ranked 97th in the world and only a few positions above India, Vietnam had dispatched Singapore 4-0 in their first game. Against the same opposition the Indians had laboured to a 1-1 draw. There was no doubt that Vietnam were a better team, in part owing to their superior domestic structure that emphasises on private investments in building academies and grassroots football.

Just how better Vietnam were, became clear in the first 10 minutes of the game itself. They came with the intent to keep possession for long periods, even if that meant having to move backwards and regroup. The ball was constantly moving and if an area was closed off by the Indian defence, the ball was shipped back till the keeper, who would restart yet another foray.

It was no surprise when they scored within 10 minutes of the game beginning. A corner taken from Nguyen Cong Phuong saw Sandesh Jhingan clatter into goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Jhingan’s clearance never made it that far and stopped Sandhu from grabbing onto the ball. Vietnam’s Phan Van Duc shot an unbalanced left footed half volley from within the box and the resultant attempt was let in by Sandhu, who was returning to position from the collision with Jhinghan.

India were a goal down with 80 minutes to go. They had mustered one move in the first 20 minutes of the game where some crisp passing led to the opposition half – but the ball was lost to impatience and a poor cross from the left that was directed to no one. If the forward passing metrics were met, the last-third play was quickly one to bring everyone back down to earth.

Six minutes later, they found themselves in the opposition half in a five vs four situation. But Ashique Kuruniyan’s left-footed shot was driven wide of the goal. The shot should have been a pass to captain Sunil Chhetri or a cut-back to Sahal Abdul Samad – neither of those options were availed and the score remained in favour of Vietnam. Four minutes later, Samad found himself with the ball in the left side of the Vietnamese box with a defender guarding him. The Kerala Blasters midfielder shimmied, dropped his shoulders – which dropped his marker to the floor – and then unleashed a shot to the keeper’s near post.

But the shot was saved and India continued to search for an equalizer. India’s best chance of the half came right on the cusp of half time. A deftly weighted cross from left-back Akash Mishra found Chhetri with acres of space and no Vietnamese defender guarding him. But the Indian skipper directed his header just wide of the goal for the score to remain 1-0 in Vietnam’s favour at the break. India grew into the game as the minutes went on but their insistence on playing a counter-based game was not utilising their players to the fullest.

Vietnam began their second half like they began their first – with a goal. And it was yet another Indian mistake, this time from Anwar Ali, that was taken advantage of by Vietnam. A long clearance from Vietnam’s half should have ideally been headed out by Ali, but the defender completely missed the ball and left Nguyễn Văn Toàn with plenty of room to run into and slide the ball past Sandhu to make it 2-0.

In the 70th minute, Vietnam benefited from yet another Indian mistake, this time from Rahul KP, who made a half-hearted attempt to clear the ball when it came into the box, missed, and was then in no position to stop Nguyen Van Quyet into curling the ball past Sandhu for their third of the night.

The hosts got close to scoring more as the evening progressed, but Sandhu managed to avoid taking the ball out of his net any further. As the match waned into its final moments, so did any resolve that the Indian team had shown initially. Their intensity refused to go away, despite substitutions and despite knowing clearly that the game was theirs. They finished the tournament with seven goals scored and zero conceded in two games while India scored one and conceded four to finish with a draw and a loss.

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