Could Sahal Abdul Samad be a Surprise Starter Against Syria?

Sahal Abdul Samad at a press conference. Picture taken by Swapnil Mukherjee

Sahal Abdul Samad looked much better in India’s first training session after the 3-0 defeat to Uzbekistan. He looked far more fit and confident with his touches during training, as Igor Stimac and his boys started preparations for the Syria game – a must-win match to stay in contention for the knockout stage.

The star midfielder, whose creativity was badly missed in India’s first two fixtures in the AFC Asian Cup, had a full session on Friday.A few days ago, ahead of the Uzbekistan game, he wasn’t present in the mini-games in order to avoid tackles and challenges. However, on Friday, Sahal participated in the mini-games under the supervision of Stimac and Trevor Sinclair.

On the other hand, another Keralite, Rahul KP – who made an immediate impact after being introduced as a substitute against Uzbekistan – had a long session with ShayamalVallabhjee, the team’s psychologist. Rahul’s shot that came back off the crossbar early in the second half was a potential game-changing moment.

Overall, the whole team looked positive in training. It was evident from the determination on their faces that they want to prove themselves against Syria, whatever the qualification scenarios.

Except for the XI that played Uzbekistan, all the players were grinding hard on the pitch. Sunil Chhetri, Suresh Wangjam, and LallianzualaChhangte were busy playing “The Floor is Lava”,with Chhetri, the 39-year-old captain and talisman, giving tough challenges to Chhangte and Suresh.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the most talked-about player after both games, pulled off a few outstanding saves in the training game, while Vishal Kaith, his counterpart, Vishal kept him on his toes with some brilliant efforts in the other goal.

While the players were busy in training, they weren’t immune to the Kolkata Derby fever.A few players kept asking the team officials about the score in the game.

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