• Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

India, Myanmar renew age-old rivalry on Asian Games stage

Seasoned Sunil Chhetri stole the spotlight for the umpteenth time on Thursday when India beat Bangladesh to stay afloat in the battle for a last-16 spot in the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Playing his third Asian Games, the second as the captain, Chhetri’s low and accurate shot from a spot kick earned India three vital points.

On Saturday, the ageless wonder of Indian Football could once again come to the fore when he leads the Blue Tigers against Myanmar in the concluding Group A tie – a match that will decide the second-placed team from Group A behind hosts China. India hold a slight advantage since a draw would be enough to receive the ticket for a quarter-final berth; Myanmar, on the other hand, need to beat India to make the grade.

The India-Myanmar rivalry goes a long way; the two teams have met 29 times (including in pre-Olympic matches) since 1952 and records clearly establish that Myanmar (formerly Burma) had often beaten India in crunch ties. But India turned the tide in the new millennium and had the last laugh when it was needed most. Two of India’s most significant wins came in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup and the 2017 Asian Cup qualifiers. On both occasions, Chhetri’s memorable goals made things possible as India scraped through by the bare minimum margins.

India’s last meeting against Myanmar ended in a 1-0 victory for the hosts in the Tri-Nation tournament in Imphal earlier this year, with Anirudh Thapa scoring the all-important goal. But in Hangzhou, the equation could be different since both India and Myanmar are primarily under-24 sides and several players from the Imphal meet are missing from the line-ups.

India Head Coach Igor Stimac didn’t waste any time after the Bangladesh triumph and began preparing for the Myanmar match. He said: “We need to qualify for the last 16, where Saudi Arabia could be waiting for us. If that happens, it will be a different game altogether.”

India’s Croatian coach said he was confident of getting the better of Myanmar. “We are aware of their style of play and we have our strategies chalked out. A win or a draw, our aim is to reach the last 16 first.”

The last time India beat Myanmar in the Asian Games was 65 years ago, in Tokyo. It was a see-saw battle as India edged past their rivals 3-2 with goals from PK Banerjee, Damodaran and Chuni Goswami. But then, it was from another era – when the Asian Games was considered the continent’s most prestigious tournament and was not restricted to an under-24 meet like this.

Source: AIFF Media 

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