All but out of reckoning for a berth in the final after two embarrassing defeats, India would look to end the tournament with some pride when they face Syria in the last league match of Intercontinental Cup in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
India are at the bottom of the points table without opening account after defeats against Tajikistan (2-4) and North Korea (2-5). Tajikistan are at top with six points from two wins while Syria and North Korea have three points each.
Defending champions India have an improbable chance of making it to the final and that too only if North Korea lose against Tajikistan. In that situation, the home side will need to beat Syria on Tuesday by six-goal margin, which is highly unlikely.
The top two teams will qualify for the final of the four-team tournament. If two or more teams end at same point, the ranking will be decided through goal difference. India have a goal difference of minus five while North Korea have zero and Syria plus one.
Croatian Igor Stimac has made changes in the Indian team's starting XI more than two dozen times in the four matches at the helm since taking charge as head coach, and he is expected to continue his 'experiment' against Syria also.
- Indian football progressed in past 10 years but still lot of up catch-up to do: Chhetri
- Intercontinental Cup: India hold Syria 1-1 in inconsequential match
- Intercontinental Cup: Chhetri's goals in vain as Tajikistan beat India
- Intercontinental Cup 2019: India go down 2-4 to Tajikistan
- Coach Igor Stimac calls out defender Anas from international retirement
He had said earlier that the Intercontinental Cup will be a preparatory platform for the upcoming 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
India began the tournament on a promising note, scoring twice in the first session against Tajikistan through captain Sunil Chhetri but let in four goals in the second half to lose the opening match 2-4. The Indian defence was completely out of sorts, committing mistakes after mistakes.
After that disappointing show in the first match, Stimac made nine changes in his starting XI against North Korea, benching number one goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for Amrinder Singh and bringing the likes of Udanta Singh and Sahal Abdul Samad only in the second half.
Defensive mainstay Sandesh Jhingan started the match but was replaced late in the first half after feeling pain in his leg following a tackle. It is not known whether Jhingan will play against Syria. If he does not play on Tuesday, India will be hit hard in their defence.
After North Korea pumped in three goals in the first half, India made a spirited comeback in the second session but still lost 2-5 to be virtually out of contention for a berth in the final.
Stimac had still said after the heavy loss against North Korea that his players showed "courage and confidence" in the second half.
"In the second-half, we came out with heads up. We had the courage, and confidence when we decided to play football. In the first-half, we played without courage and self confidence," he had said.
"I gave the players the chance to play for India and asked them to enjoy their football. But if you do not show courage and fight, you cannot win.
"In the second-half, we started taking responsibility and created chances. We were dangerous in front of their goal. But it was difficult to keep shape and go up and down continuously. But I'm proud of the way they played," he added.