India hosted Bangladesh in the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium. On the back of a point against hosts Qatar, India looked to register their first win of the campaign against Bangladesh. India had a single point from two games. While Bangladesh was yet to register a point in the campaign.
In this tactical analysis, we look at how Bangladesh defied India with their discipline and how India’s lack of creativity cost them.
This match between India and Bangladesh brought about a clash between teams with two very different sets of objectives. If India had any hopes of qualifying for the final round of qualification. This was a must-win game, while Bangladesh looked to register their first point.
India was set up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Anas returning at centre-back replacing injured Sandesh Jhinghan. In midfield, India was hopeful of exploiting Ashique & Udanta’s pace down the wings. And up top Chettri would drop in attacking midfield to receive layoffs from Manvir.
India’s build-up & Bangladesh defensive set up
This analysis will firstly take a look at India in possession. In possession, India was set up in a 4-1-1-4 formation, with 5 players in either half. In the defensive half, Anirudh Thapa played as a pivot while both CB’s were ball-playing defenders. Full-backs played in a supporting role switching duties as when required in attack or defence.
India’s tactics included a possession-based model, keeping the ball and drawing opponents out of position. Thus the defensive line would move the ball amongst them to draw the opponent’s 1st line of defence out & create spaces behind them and attack the midfield Line.
In the picture, India’s players in attacking half are spread across the pitch covering 5 zones (2 wings, 2 half-spaces, the centre). This is done to make opponent’s midfield & defensive line to spread out and cover players. This creates small pockets of spaces in front of the defensive line.
India had a couple of variations for buildup. In the first variation, India could not break Bangladesh’s defence so the centre back had to resort to direct play to Manvir Singh who was deployed as target man he would win aerial duels & lay-off passes for Chettri. Then Chettri would further to play through to wingers or even take on defenders himself.
In the second variation, centre-back plays the ball to Ashique in half-space with fullback overlapping from the wing with Chettri lurking around. India has created an ideal situation with 5 vs 5 on the external zone. The positioning of Manvir & Udanta is important they have occupied 3 defenders so have enabled India to take advantage on the left external zone.
Why India could not break Bangladesh’s defence
Firstly, Bangladesh with a ‘low line of confrontation’ and a ‘low line of restraint’ worked very hard to block passing lanes. Their front two were instructed not to press the centre-backs or the pivot so they do not concede space behind and their midfield line was well drilled to shift to external zones or shift back to central zones.
Bangladesh did not press higher as that would leave gaps between their lines. They let India have the ball in their half making them shift the ball amongst their defenders. As when India had the ball in the external zone. Bangladesh would shift to block passing lanes into half-spaces or centre.
India’s five players in defensive half were intentionally passing in their own half to draw opponents. This can be highlighted by the fact that 257 of 483 India’s passes were in their own half. India’s main source of attacks was down the wing. As they looked to exploit the pace of Ashique and Udanta, given they made 19 of 26 crosses. But only 3 of those 19 found a teammate.
Though India didn’t have much defending to do in this match, vacant space in front of the defensive line could be cause for concern in future.
In the match against Qatar, India showed they can defend for ninety minutes without exposing their team shape for the opponent to take advantage of. But in games where have the ball most of the time, players could get complacent and will move forward leaving gaps in transitions.
The above image shows that the team looks well-positioned to defend a high ball following a goal kick. They are set up in a compact shape so that they do not concede space.
Udanta and Chettri (former Kansas City Wizards (MLS) player) have pinned four Bangladeshi players with their wide positions. From where they can attack the fullbacks stretching opponent’s defensive line deeper. Creating space for midfield players to make late runs into the box
Since India are set up in a 4-1-1-4 formation while attacking, with Anirudh alone in front of the defensive line. In defensive transitions, Anirudh is left alone in front of the defensive line. And when he moves forward to put pressure on the opponent defenders are exposed with pockets of space in front of them.
Bangladesh’s game plan was to take advantage of situations like these only where they would sit deep. And wait for a mistake made by the opponent and initiate a counter-attack on transitions exposing India’s defensive line.
Attacking Corners: Anirudh Thapa is on corner duties, India have four players in the box for the header plus three outside the box for the second phase of corners. Since India do not have tall players. They are most likely to lose the first header. Players outside the box can take a shot or move the ball to the wings to put in a low cross.
Attacking Free Kicks
For indirect attacking freekicks India has two variations. One to play a direct ball to the player with the best header at the far post where he makes an attempt at goal or can layoff for other players. Second, to play short to a free player where he can play a through the ball like in picture Sahal plays through for Chettri who plays in the Indian Super League with Bengaluru FC.
For defending corners: India had nine players in the box with five players on man-marking duties. Two players marking zonally plus one each on post and edge of the penalty area for late runs. Players instructed with man-marking are mainly there to stop the flow of opponents while attacking the ball. Then Adil and Chettri can win compete aerially or win the first header.
Defending Free Kicks
India has a medium block for the freekick encouraging the goalkeeper to command his box and catch the ball. The keeper did come for the ball but missed the flight and ended up conceding the goal. India also Udanta and Sahal on the edge of the box facing away from goal for the second phase of play, to initiate a counter-attack.
In the end, this draw will hurt India the most on the back of a point against Qatar. The powerhouse from Asia should have got three points from the game. To have any hopes for qualifying for the final round. However, now India should be looking at qualification the Asian Cup.
If India scored early into the game. They would have won the game convincingly but credit goes to Bangladesh for being disciplined throughout the match. Bangladesh parked the bus when needed. They proved a threat in transitions.
Bangladesh would have been the happier of the two teams for earning an away point, whilst for India, this could be a huge blow to their chances of qualification to the next round.
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