India's rare chance to rise in FIFA rankings in Puerto Rico friendly
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Start time: 8pm IST
Venue: Andheri Sports Complex, Mumbai
Zambia was the last non-Asian country to visit India, back in 2011, in a match which India lost 5-0. It's the first international fixture to take place in Mumbai in 61 years, and also the first one at the football arena at the Andheri Sports Complex, which was recently announced as the official home ground of Mumbai FC for the upcoming ISL season.
India, ranked 152 in the latest FIFA rankings, will host a higher-ranked team for the first time in nearly two years, when they line-up against 114-ranked Puerto Rico. India last played a higher-ranked team in October 2014, losing against 102-ranked Palestine 3-2.
Even though Puerto Rico are ranked higher, they have lost three of their last five matches, including home and away defeats against traditional rivals Dominican Republic. India, on the other hand, are on a run of three straight wins, including home and away wins against Laos in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers and a recent 3-0 win against Bhutan in a friendly.
A win would help India rise in world rankings and boost their confidence ahead of the next round of Asian Cup playoffs in March 2017. Aside from their recent form, the absence of three key players for Puerto Rico - all-time leading goalscorer Hector Ramos, Jorge Rivera and Joseph Marrero, is likely to work in India's favour. The three forwards will not travel with the team due to their club commitments.
Form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
Puerto Rico: LWWLL
Head to head
Never played before
In the spotlight
After pitching a second-string side against Bhutan last month, coach Stephen Constantine has made his intentions clear by naming a strong 28-man squad in the list of probables for this fixture.
Jeje Lalpekhlua, who has now scored in each of his last three games, poses the biggest threat in front of goal.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, chosen ahead of senior Subrata Pal, has been named captain. Gurpreet, who made history by becoming the first Indian to feature in a Europa League qualifier, will have a point to prove in order to justify his selection.
What they said
"We are very motivated to play against a side ranked 114. If you want to go higher it's important that you play against stronger sides. I would rather lose 4-0 to Iran than win 3-0 against a weaker Nation." - Indian coach Stephen Constantine.
"It was cold, extremely cold. I had to live alone which I had never done in life. I had to use public transport which perhaps I have hardly done. On top of that I had to cook and train. The initial days were difficult. But I have settled down now." - Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, on his time playing in Norway.