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India still searching for first points

India will once again start as the underdog in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier (AFC second round), this time against a well-organised Guam side. Having lost all five of its Group D fixtures so far — including the away-leg at Guam — the Indians will be desperate to record their first points.

It will not be easy. The tiny island of Guam sits 17 spots above the home team on the world ranking list, thanks in no small part to an unexpected stellar run in these qualification rounds.

The visitor has registered two wins, a draw and two losses, and has set its sights on progressing to the next round.

Direct defence

India coach Stephen Constantine is direct in his defence of India’s poor returns so far. “You don’t make a team in a day or a month. While I would like to qualify — as we all would — what have we done to give ourselves the chance to do that? How can we expect that after eight years of not playing anybody of great pedigree, to suddenly qualify?,” asked Constantine at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, on the eve of the match here on Wednesday.

Guam, meanwhile, is all about the here and now. The 165,000-odd population pool has forced coach Gary White to scout for footballers from outside the borders, and the plan has worked.

Footballers of Guamanian roots in North America have been roped in — with MLS player and central defender A.J. DeLaGarza being one of the best imports on view.

The squad may lack the star names, but as the Indians will testify, they know how to get the job done.

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India have so far played two matches at the Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru. The first against Oman was a 2-1 defeat and the second was a 3-0 drubbing to Iran.

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