SAFF Cup: India gear up for a tough start against AfghanistanDecember 2nd, 2011 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Five times champions India cannot take Afghanistan lightly in their opening game of the SAFF Cup football tournament at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here Saturday.
India’s new coach Savio Medeira should know what to expect from the teams in the regional championship, having come here after a 0-5 thrashing by higher-ranked Zambia in an international friendly earlier in the week. Obviously, he refuses to see the 162nd-ranked India as favourites to retain the title.
Medeira said his team cannot afford to take Afghanistan easy, the lowest ranked team (178th) in the eight-nation South Asian Football Federation tournament.
Medeira very well remembers how India huffed and puffed to put it across Afghanistan in the AFC Challenge Cup in Hyderabad three years ago. They won 2-1 thanks to the stoppage-time strike by Climax Lawrence. The Goan was then the assistant to British coach Bob Houghton.
“Afghanistan are a capable side, the exuberance of youth standing out. The match should surely be a good challenge for us. They have been playing very well in the recent past. So, we need to be extra careful,” he said.
“The Championship gives us the opportunity to further improve at the international Level.”
Medeira can breathe easy as his two ace strikers Sunil Chettri and Jeje Lalpeklua are back after a six-day trial with Scottish giants Rangers. The duo was missed during the Zambia thrashing. They arrived here early Friday, but will play in the match.
“They are experienced players and I don’t think their missing a practice session is cause for any concern for the team. They have played several matches together and share a great chemistry. I feel they will bring in a lot of experience to the team and their stint with Rangers will stand them in good stead,” he said.
Medeira admitted it would be tough for India to retain the title.
“It will be tough and it depends on how the team plays on the match day. We have prepared ourselves to the best of our ability and the boys are going to give their 100 per cent. That is important. We are confident we can beat Afghanistan, but we are not taking them lightly,” Medeira said after team’s training session at Ambedkar Stadium.
Afghanistan coach Mohammad Yusuf Kargar is no stranger to India. He was in charge of the team in the AFC Challenge Cup as well.
“We have a mix of youth and experience in the team and hopefully we will beat India 1-0 tomorrow,” he said.
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- Hapless India go down 0-5 to Zambia - Nov 29, 2011
- SAFF Cup: India sans Sameer Naik in must-win match against Bhutan - Dec 04, 2011
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- AFC Challenge Cup: India enjoy psychological advantage against Tajikistan - Mar 08, 2012
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Tags: afc challenge cup, asian football federation, bob houghton, coach bob, cup football, exuberance, football tournament, goan, jawaharlal nehru, jawaharlal nehru stadium, jeje, match day, medeira, practice session, ranked team, regional championship, saff cup, savio, stoppage time, time strike