When India walk out to play Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru on Tuesday for their second qualifier for the AFC Asian Cup, they will be seen as favourites to win the match. Kyrgzstan are placed 132 on the FIFA rankings while India are 32 places above them on 100. Moreover the Indian team have won all of their last five matches they have played home and away. Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five fixtures.
Kyrgyzstan is a relatively young team. Formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan played their first official match away at fellow former Soviet country Uzbekistan in the Central Asia Tournament. Kyrgyzstan have been a regular in the Nehru Cup since the past few years and it was there that India first played Kyrgyzstan. India won that match 3-0 thanks to goals from Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri and Abhishek Yadav. The two teams have played two times since then. While India won the second match, the third and the most recent one played in 2010 went Kyrgyzstan’s way.
India and Kyrgyzstan are both tied at three points in Group A of the qualifiers. While India had beaten Myanmar in the first round of matches, Kyrgyzstan defeated Macau. India have since played a friendly against Nepal while the match against Macau remains Kyrgyzstan’s only match before they travel to India. It wasn’t too long ago that India were ranked 166 on the FIFA rankings as opposed to Kyrgyzstan’s 108. Kyrgyzstan’s low ranking in comparison to India is also because of the fact that India have played far more matches than their opponents in 2016 and 2017. Hence, despite the gulf in rankings, India coach Stephen Constantine has said that Kyrgyzstan could well be favourites. “They are experienced and have quality through their team,” said Constantine, “They will be difficult to break down. We are a team on the up but it will be a big challenge.”