India confident of qualifying for Asia Cup (Preview)August 12th, 2008 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS
By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Exactly a year ago Indian football’s fortunes took an upswing here at the Ambedkar Stadium, winning the Nehru Cup for the first time. The team is back here, looking good to making the Asia Cup by winning the AFC Challenge Cup against Tajikistan Wednesday. A win against defending champions will take India to the finals of the 2011 Asia Cup in Doha, ending 24-year wait to make it to the Asia Cup finals. The last time they played in Asia Cup was way back in 1984 in Singapore, where they finished fifth.
After last year’s Nehru Cup win under coach Bob Houghton the team is a changed outfit and have put in good performances.
The final was shifted to Delhi after heavy rains made the venue in Hyderabad unplayable.
Ambedkar Stadium have been lucky for India and if Houghton had his way, the tournament would have been played here.
The Indian team is well aware of the importance of the match and despite the extended break, the players are focussed. Houghton sounded confident during the pre-match press conference at the National Sports Club of India here.
“Playing in the 2011 Asia Cup will be a big thing and there is no better chance to qualify. I think we should win because we have the home advantage and the guys are on a winning spree,” the 60-year-old Englishman told reporters on the eve of the final.
Two years ago when Houghton took over, the team was in a shambles and they had conceded seven goals in two matches in the Asia Cup qualifiers. Houghton couldn’t be blamed for the last Asia Cup qualifiers results because by the time he took over, India had to play only two matches against Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Credit should go to Houghton for bringing about a sea change in the team’s attitude and approach.
India played consistently well in this edition and also did well to hold Tajikistan at the group stage before beating Turkmenistan and Myanmar to reach the final.
Houghton is unlikely to make any significant changes in the team that defeated Myanmar in the semi-finals as their performance was pretty good, considering the poor underfoot conditions.
Captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri will lead upfront with Steven Dias, N.P. Pradeep, Climax Lawrence and Renedy Singh in the midfield.
But the defence will be a major concern as experienced Mahesh Gawli is yet to recover from his injury while Deepak Mondal is also uncertain. Despite the absence of the senior players, the young centre backs Gourmangi Singh and Anwar Ali have done exceptionally well. Sameer Naik and Surkumar Singh will be playing as roving backs to provide backup to the strikers.
Tajikistan will be without seasoned striker Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov, who has been suspended for two matches and fined $3000 for head-butting North Korea’s Yun Yong-il while shaking hands after the semifinal.
Having defeated tournament favourites North Korea, Tajikistan will be high on confidence.
India: Subrata Paul, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury; Anwar Ali, Surkumar Singh, Gourimangi Singh, Deepak Mondal, Govin Singh, Baldeep Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Syed Rahim Nabi, Samir Naik; N.P. Pradeep, Renedy Singh, Bungo Singh, Climax Lawrence, Ajayan Nair, Steven Dias, Clifford Miranda, Mehrajuddin Wadoo; Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri, Sushil Singh and Abhishek Yadav.
Tajikistan: Alisher Tyuchev, Mirali Murodov, Amonsho Sodatsayrov; Dalerdzhon Tukhtasunov, Naim Nasirov, Davronjon Ergashev, Eradhz Radzhabov, Zfardzhon Zuvaydov, Sohib Savankulov, Suhrob Mansurov, Isomiddin Qurbonov, Eraj Kholov; Anvar Norkulov, Samad Shohzukhrov, Fatkhullo Fatkhloev, Yusuf Rabiev; Dzhomikhon Muhidinov, Numondzhon Khamikov, Dzhakongir Dzhalilov.
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