Incheon: Hassled by delayed clearance by the government, Indian men's football team will open their campaign in the Asian Games with a potentially tough match against United Arab Emirates here on Monday.
The Under-23 team faced enormous problems due to the delayed clearance for the Games and were left stranded for a few days in Shanghai where they had gone for an exposure tour. They were to take a flight to Incheon from Shanghai much before the football competition begins but after cancellation of their tickets thrice, they reached only two days prior to tomorrow's opening game at the Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium.
Having weathered all these problems, they will be now up against the UAE, who had finished runners-up in the 2010 Asian Games in China. The Indian team also did have a mixed build-up to the Games as they won one friendly and lost another against Pakistan though they had beaten two Chinese Super League sides in Shanghai (one club fielding a second string team).
A lot is at stake in tomorrow's Group G match as a loss may put India in a virtually impossible position to qualify for the pre-quarterfinals. Only two teams from the three-team Group G will qualify for the knockout round and India face another strong team Jordan in their second and final group match on September 22.
Despite UAE ranked much higher than India on 65 in the FIFA Rankings in comparison to 150 for Wim Koevermans' boys, the Men in Blue will take inspiration from the last two matches played between the two teams, both of which ended in draws.
In the AFC 22 Qualifiers in Muscat in 2012, India had managed to hold UAE 1-1 while it was 2-2 stalemate in the 2011 World Cup Qualifiers in New Delhi. So far, the two teams have played 11 matches between themselves with India having won only two while UAE have won 8.