Indian football team’s Asian Games campaign came to an end when they were comprehensively outplayed by Japan in the pre-quarter finals. With two defeats against West Asian heavyweights Kuwait and Qatar, and a sensational victory over Singapre, India did well to reach the knock-out stage of this prestigious tournament after 28 years. However, Japan proved to be a team from a different universe altogether, as they thrashed the Indian colts by 5-0 margin.

The way this young team fought tooth and nails against Kuwait in their opening encounter, speaks a lot about the potential of this young team. A defensive lapse and a goalkeeping error had cost the match for India, but the performance of the organized Indian midfield made even the rival coach to shower praise on them. Captain Joaquim Abrahanches and playmaker Jewel Raja Sheikh deserve special mention here.

In the second match against Qatar, India’s inexperience was clearly evident, as despite leading till the 82th minute, Sukhwinder’s boys conceeded 2 goals in last 10 minutes of the game against the Doha Asiad’s Gold medal winners to eventually go down by 1-2 margin. Defender Dharmaraj Ravanan scored India’s only goal of the game – expertly diverting a Joaquim Abranches free-kick. He also led the defence from the front with three goal-line clearances and was clearly the pick of the Indian players.

In the do or die encounter against Singapore in the third and last group league match, the Men in Blue produced a scintillating performance and whipped Singapore 4-1 to ensure a berth in the knock-out stage as one of the four best 3rd-placed teams. Jewel Raja, Balwant Singh, Jibon Singh and Manish Mathani registered their names in the Asiad score sheet in that game.

The Positives:

1. By qualifying for the knock-out stage without any big names in the squad, the Indian youngsters showed that Indian football’s future is in bright hands. The fighting spirit showed by the youngsters is a great attribute and if they are groomed properly, Indian football can reach greater heights.

2. The emergence of players like Joaquim Abrahanches, Manish Mathani, Jewel Raja et al is another positive sign. They were always talented, but a lack of proper international exposure was hindering their development. The experience of playing in the Asian Games will serve them well.

3. The fact that team India, comprising of only Under-23 players, did qualify for the pre-quarters, is bound to make football fans to keep an eye on their progress. Indian football needs awareness among common people and the best way to attract supporters is to perform above their expectations – and this young team did just that.

The Negatives:

1. The campaign has brought to light the ineffective administration pertaining to Indian football. There was no coordination at all between this Under-23 squad and the senior team management. The Under-23 coach Sukhwinder Singh wanted the services of few Under-23 players, who got senior team call up for the preparation of 2011 Asia Cup; but Indian senior team coach Bob Houghton refused to let them go. Players like Arindam Bhattacharjee, N.S Manju, Sushil Kumar Singh could have been ideal inclusions to this young brigade but lack of proper administrative guidelines and negligence from the AIFF authority could not convince the reluctant senior team coach to release them.

No one is denying that preparation for Asia Cup is a prime objective at this moment, but the pride of the nation was at stake in the Asian Games too. Participating in the games would not have hampered the progress of the players; moreover, it would have been better than warming the substitute’s bench for the senior team’s friendlies.

2. The selection of the squad for the Asian Games could have been more transparent. There was no apparent reasons for omitting the likes of Sanju Pradhan or Robin Singh from the team. Manish Mathani, a natural central midfielder, was made to play out wide as Indian team did not have a quality winger. Sanju Pradhan, a proven talent for East Bengal, could have slipped into the role with ease. Similarly, Robin Singh could have provided the coach with more attacking threats upfront.

3. As per the Asian Games rule book, India could have selected three senior players in the squad, which would have provided the coach with an excellent blend of experience and youth. While most of the teams made full use of that regulation, Indian selectors choose to include relatively less experienced players like Denzil franco, Joaquim Abrahanches and Karanjit Singh in this quota; while there are much better and proven talents available in the country compared to these three. Even if we discard the senior players busy with the Asia Cup camp, players like Mehtab Hussain, Denson Devadas, Snehashish Chakraborty could have made all the difference to the team’s fortune.

4. Although Sukhwinder Singh is regarded as a highly rated coach, some of his tactical decisions raise a question mark over his competency to be the coach of this young Indian team. This Under-23 team’s defence was always a weak link, but yet in their first match against Kuwait, Sukhwinder Singh opted for an ultra defensive tactic. The strategy backfired, as the ultra defensive Indian outfit could not create anything notable in the entire match and a couple of defensive lapses allowed Kuwait to take the game away from India.

In the second match against a strong Qatar side, Sukhi changed the tactics and went on with the strength of the team. Result – India displayed excellent attacking football and took an early lead. Then again Sukhi made the same tactical blunder and went into a defensive mould to preserve the solitary goal lead and eventually lost the match by 2-1 margin.

In the survival battle against Singapore, India attacked right from the word go and the attacking football ultimately paid for India as they thumped Singapore by a 4-1 margin. There is a popular saying in football – “To play to the team’s strength” – but either Sukhi was unaware of that saying or the lessons from the group stage were not enough for him, as the coach again deployed a defensive unit in the pre-quarters against Japan and paid the ultimate price for it.

Although team India did a wonderful job by qualifying for the Asian Games knock-out stage, but with proper planning and efficient execution, they could have achieved further. It’s high time that AIFF invests time and money for developing the promising young talents and chalks out the right strategy to groom them. It’s evident that there is no lack of talent, but the need of the hour is to convert the talent into results. The efficiency of the players is not a problem here, but the efficiency, or rather the lack of it, of the administrators is surely the biggest problem for Indian football.

India 4-1 Singapore


22 Responses to “Asian Games 2010: Few Conclusions From The Indian Campaign”

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  1. Soccerfan says:

    Spot on with the analysis Deb. And very informative also.

    I was not aware that we could select 3 senior players. I thought Franco, Joaquim and Karanjit are all under 23. Why on earth the team management ignored the prospect of having more experienced players? Also there is too much lobbying in the team selection. A group is hell bent upon giving chances to the plyers from Goa lobby ignoring the talents from Bengal. Bagan’s Shouvik, Chirag’s Subhash, East Bengal’s Sanju and Robin should be included in the team. Who knows, we might have performed better against Kuweit or Qatar and that means we would not had to face Japan in the round of 16.

    Anyway, proud of the way the team performed. Indian footballers deserve better administration, better coach, better facility. I agree, talent is there and we have the potential to regain our lost pride but for that to happen GOI and AIFF need to react positively.


  2. Ramachandra Bhat says:

    I do not understand a simple thing why our federation is obliging to every demand Houghton is making? What has the “phoren” coach delivered till date? We are still languishing in the same FIFA ranking from the time Houghton took over. We used to get humiliated by the likes of Japan/Soudi Arabia/UAE, still we are just making a mockery of ourselves against these countries. Winning 3rd tier tournaments like Nehru Cup and playing against 4th grade countries can never do any good for us. He is just interested in making lots and lots of money. I am afraid even to think what is in store for us in the Asia Cup 2011.

    For the sake of Indian football, AIFF should clear its stand and should never compromise with any of Houghton’s irrational demands. Senior team does not need such a high profile coach. They have passed the age to learn something new. AIFF should appoint an experienced coach with proven track record for the junior team, a coach who has the expertise in grooming young talents, someone who has performed similar duties as a development coach in South American or European countries.

  3. Varun says:

    Not all the time you can discover a well written article that sticks to your thoughts for some time. I have to say it’s a brilliant piece of writing.

    The last line sums it up beautifully – “The efficiency of the players is not a problem here, but the efficiency, or rather the lack of it, of the administrators is surely the biggest problem for Indian football”. Completely agree with this statement. The worthless politicians, incompetent AIFF administrators have to make way for the sake of Indian football. Otherwise I dont see a chance for our team to make it big in international tourny. It’s time for the supporters of this beautiful game to wake up and dream.

  4. Satinder Pal Singh says:

    Most of the points made in this article make sense, but can’t quite agree with the undue criticism of Sukhwinder Singh. Sukhi is the best coach available in the country at this moment. He has previously groomed a lot of players in his JCT days, who are now playing for clubs like Churchill, Dempo, Pune fc, East Bengal. The plain matter of fact is that the inexperienced Indian players were not good enough to match the Asian heavyweights. Media needed a sacrificial lamb, and sadly this time it is Sukhi.

    I agree that the player selection was faulty. How on earth they could miss out on players like Sanju Pradhani, Robin Singh, Tuboi (that Lajong striker). If Sukhi had the services of 3 over-23 aged players and the 8 under-23 players from senior team, the result might have been different.

    The quality of the video is very poor. The fourth goal is not there. If possible please arrange for a better resolution video.

  5. Robin says:

    This is the first time I am visiting your site and this is the 1st article that I hav read here. Impressive design and content to say the least. We need such a football forum in India. Continue the good work and please continue to post the links for your new articles on “Indian Football Fans” Orkut community.

  6. Joseph P says:

    I agree with Satindar here. Please do not put the blame on Sukhwinder alone. He is a good coach and AIFF should continue with him. If someone needs the boot then it should be Bob Houghton.

  7. Shoumik Chanda says:

    I like the article. I completely agree. There are better players in our country than Joaqim, Denzil and Karanjit. Inclusion of Joaqim and Denzil is the ploy by the south lobby; Karanjit was the consolation gift for the North/East lobby. They were anyway sure that Karanjit would not get a chance ahead of Kattimani. If Kattimani did not get injured, then Gurpreet would never played. From GK to striker, the hand of the south lobby was clear. The lobby was behind south players and the coach was behind the punjabi players. That’s why players from Bengal and NE suffered. Why Malswamfela, Tirthankar, Raju, Subodh, Milan were not given a chance? Can anyone answer? To hell with this south lobby and coach’s punjabi biasness. India can never improve in football if such kind of cheap mentality is there :(

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  9. Prasenjit says:

    Why so much negative thoughts? I feel AIFF thought to give the youngsters international expousure and they grabbed the opportunity with both hands. India qualified for the KO stage after nearly three decades. Also I think it was a good decision by Houghton not to leave the players. These 30 players are practising together for over 6 months now and releasing the players could affect their preparation.

    Cheers to the junior team who made us proud. There are more to come for sure. Indian football’s future is in bright hands. We should be proud of them.

  10. Aniruddha Poddar says:

    @Shoumik – thoughts like yours hurt India the most. Please for God’s sake no north-south divide here. There is no such lobby operating in indian football. How can you accuse someone like Sukhwinder of showing biasness? He may not be a great tactician, but he is a clean character.

    @Author – I agree with your analytical view here. Really an informative read. Please publish similar analysis for India senior team’s Dubai camp.

  11. Srinivas Sharman Dhulappia says:

    can you please provide a video link for India-Japan match? nice article btw. thanks.

  12. You are right, Srinivas. A video for India-Japan match is a must have for this article! But nevermind, you can get exclusive video highlights for all Indian matches at

  13. Manik Paul says:

    Lobbying is surely there. Otherwise Mehtab Hussain must have got a national call up by this time. Please Houghton give Mehtab a chance in the national team to prove his worth. He is better than Rakesh Masih, Baldeep Singh or the aging Climax Lawrence.

  14. Uday Nayar says:

    I just wanted to say that it’s nice to know that atleast someone mentioned and covered this tournament as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This is the first and only place that provided my the info on team India’s Asian games campaign. Thanks.