Former Indian captain and current assistant coach of the national football team, Shanmugam Venkatesh, feels there has been a huge change in the “process and approach” of the current crop of players compared to what it used to be until two years back.

“The team has undergone a significant change in their style of play and approach to the game, improving on their basics than what was in prevalence till the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. The data analytics are proof of that,” said Venkatesh, who was an attacking midfielder during his playing day and was part of the national team between 1997 and 2006.

Venkatesh, who is currently with the national team for the combined World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers in Doha, says that analysis of game data had shown a huge improvement in India’s overall game in the last two years.

India lost by a solitary goal to Asian champions Qatar in the opening match of the Qualifiers. They came back strongly to defeat Bangladesh 2-0, with captain Sunil Chhetri scoring a brace. Now, coach Igor Stimac’s boys are looking to garner three full points against Afghanistan on June 15.

“In the first seven matches of the current Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 preliminary joint round qualification Round 2 so far, India have played an average of 450 passes per match with an accuracy of 80 per cent.

“We have also had a 50 per cent average ball possession among all matches, with an average of 8.14 shots per match out of which an average of 2.71 were on target. The stats also point out the young but tough and stubborn Indian team has won a staggering 49 per cent of the duels on the field,” said Venkatesh, who donned the Mahindra United jersey 77 times in the I-League between 2003 and 2007.

Venkatesh said the idea was to give Indian players tough outings so that they get to learn more and improve their game.

“The idea is to play matches against extremely tough oppositions. The March 2021 friendlies were against Oman and UAE – who are among the top teams in Asia. It serves no purpose of playing lower-ranked teams,” said Venkatesh.

–IANS

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