Fit Chhetri improves India’s chances in friendly with Jordan

Buoyed by the return of flagship striker Sunil Chhetri to their ranks, India still have an uphill task ahead when they take on top seed Jordan in an international soccer friendly here on Saturday.

Chhetri, 37, last played for India in their 3-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championship final in October 2021 but has since been ruled out through injury.

The match was India’s final warm-up game ahead of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers which kick off in Kolkata from 8 June.

Jordan is ranked 91st against India at 106th in the FIFA rankings.

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“Another game against a stronger team will always help,” head coach Igor Stimac said of the team that arrived here on Wednesday.

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“This is our last friendly before qualifying, and we need to get definitive answers to some questions. Some of our young people will have a great opportunity to gain more experience at an international level,” he added.

The team had been in training camp for more than a month, first at Bellary in Karnataka and then in Kolkata, and the coach said the fitness levels of the players were “pretty good”.

“We still have 10 days (before the Asian Cup qualifiers), and it has to be perfect. The boys did a good job and they should be rewarded with a good result in qualifying,” said Stimac.

About Jordan as the opposing team, the coach said: “Jordan is ranked better than Belarus (FIFA Ranking 93) but not as physical as Belarus. So for us it should be a bit easier in terms of building up and on the ball. The “Blue Tigers” had played against Belarus in the FIFA international window in March, a game in which they lost 0-3.

The Indian workforce was strengthened by the arrival of ATK’s Mohun Bagan, who was absent from the preparation camp due to their club’s commitments in the AFC Cup.

“They arrived very late (26 May 2022) after playing 3 games in 7 days, and because of that we have to be careful with them. We still have over 36 hours ahead of them to recover and I will make a decision whether to field them or not on the morning of day 28,” said Stimac.

The match starts at 21:30 WIB.

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