New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) Lauding India's spirited performances at the Asian Cup football tournament, Northeast United FC coach Eelco Schattorie asserted that the boys in blue will have to focus on their defence in their third and final group match against Bahrain.
The Indians have surprised fans, critics and rivals with their spirited performances in their first two matches at Asian football's showpiece event.
The perennial underdogs have well and truly lived up to their nickname 'Blue Tigers' by asking tough questions of much higher rated teams in a tough Group A despite their technical and tactical limitations.
They stunned Thailand 4-1 thanks to a strong second half performance and outplayed hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) before inability to finish off the half a dozen chances they created came back to haunt them in a 0-2 defeat.
Although the Indian defence has mostly been well organised in the two matches, there have been occasional lapses and Schattorie felt that India coach Stephen Constantine needs to focus on this aspect ahead of the encounter against Bahrain on Monday.
"Opponents do their homework and the key as I said in our first game against Thailand is India's defence. The team's defence was not accurate and with Bahrain, the long ball strategy will be similar as their striker is one who can run and have length which India really needs to ready themselves to face," Schattorie told IANS in an email interview.
Experienced central defender Anas Edathodika has recently come off an injury lay-off, Schattorie asserted that the Kerala player needs to polish up his combination with Anirudh Thapa at the back.
"With Anas not having too much game time, it can affect the co-operation with Anirudh which needs to be strong," Schattorie, who is also an expert commentator with broadcaster Star Sports, said.
Although both UAE and Bahrain have similar playing styles, the former East Bengal coach opined that the latter's direct style may prove to be easier to read for the Indian defenders.
"The difference between UAE and Bahrain will be that UAE take little bit more time to attack from the back, so the long ball comes as a surprise, but Bahrain plays a little more direct, so India can anticipate more," he said.
Bahrain will be more desperate to win since they are at the last place in the Group A standings with a single point from two matches. They had held held UAE 1-1 in their campaign opener before losing to Thailand.
The Indians are in a relatively comfortable position. They are second in the group with three points from two matches. A draw will carry the boys in blue to the next round if UAE manage to beat Thailand in Monday's other group match.
Schattorie felt that Bahrain will need to play a more attacking game than usual which may open up space at the back for the fast Indian counter-attacks.
"Bahrain will be playing against their nature, as a counter team who needs to attack. India needs to launch more counters so in this case not much will change. Keeping the striker at the front should be taken into consideration, but I don't think a change now will be consistent as change creates confusion between players. I don't believe we have underperformed against UAE so we should play with what we have got," he said.
(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at By firstname.lastname@example.org)