Tough for India to win AFC Challenge Cup: Shyam Thapa

July 30th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, July 30 (IANS) Former India international Shyam Thapa is pained to see the falling standards of Indian football and does not think it has much of a chance at the AFC Challenge Cup that started here Wednesday. Thapa, who is here on his last assignment as the technical adviser to the Nepalese football team, told IANS that he was appalled at the Indian team’s performance at the recent South Asian Football Federations (SAFF) Cup.

Thapa, here for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup, said: “I feel very sad with India’s falling standard. The way they played in the SAFF Cup was pathetic. Can you imagine a team like Bhutan was making life miserable for India?

“If they play like this in the AFC Challenge Cup, then I don’t think they will be able to even reach the semi-finals. When I look back now, I feel very sad that during our days with limited resources we were among the top Asian teams. And now with all new methods of training and practice tours we are losing ground everyday.”

Thapa, who will soon be joining as the technical director of the Mohun Bagan-SAIL Academy in Durgapur, West Bengal, said that Nepal with its limited resources is rapidly catching up with India.

Thapa, who has been the technical director of the Nepal team for four years, said India has to finish atop Group A if they want to win the tournament. And for that they have to keep a clean slate in the group phase by beating Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and defending champions Tajiskistan.

“If India finish second in the group then they will face North Korea, who in all possibility will top Group B. And that would be tough for India. So if they want to avoid meeting North Korea, they have to finish as leaders and that’s not going to be easy,” he said.

The former East Bengal coach pointed out that footballers of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have better stamina and physique than the Indian players.

“Indian players can’t afford to lose possession and also shouldn’t play long balls. They should play passing game and that will be the key,” he said.

Thapa also lambasted the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) for its failure to come up with an academy.

“Despite the political instability, Nepal has succeeded in setting up a good academy. But unfortunately the AIFF does not have even one for all its promises. If we don’t have good academies then we will keep on languishing at 153rd rank,” he said.

Thapa is hoping that Nepal will put up a good show in the tournament, starting here Wednesday.

Nepal is in Group B with North Korea, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

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