TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain
August 21st, Kick-off: 5 PM Local Time
(Aug 22nd, 2:30 AM IST)
When the AIFF struck a deal to send the Indian National football team on tour to Caribbean, it positively came as a breath of fresh air, as the Indian supporters were excited to see their team rub horns against much higher ranked teams like, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. The match against Trinidad & Tobago was scheduled to be the second official match on tour for the Blue Tigers, but controversially India pulled out of the first friendly against Barbados, making this match their opening fixture on this tour. The federation cited ‘some unforeseen circumstances’ which forced the travelling side to pull out of the game at Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Since the controversial decision was made public, it has been reported that Coach Armando Colaco was livid over the cold treatment given to the squad, after they arrived at the Bridgetown Airport by the organizers. It is rumored that the team was meted a cold welcome as no one came to the airport to receive the team, neither officials from Barbados Football Association, nor from the organizers +One. The team had to book a hotel on their own after waiting for hours for petty issues like getting their visas. This didn’t go down well with the Colaco, and he decided not to field his side in the match scheduled on Friday. However, the Federation maintained that it was not prudent for the team to play the match after a long journey, as it could lead to injuries and strains. AIFF sent a strong signal across to all the I-league clubs, indirectly especially as the domestic season knocks on the door.
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:
FIFA RANKING: 88
Ardently known as Soca Warriors, the national football team of Trinidad & Tobago is among the heavyweights of the CONCACAF region. The team is no stranger to the big competitions, having played their first ever FIFA world Cup in 2006. Soca Warriors are currently mentored by German head coach Otto Pfister, who joined the T&T bangwagon in March, and is assisted by former Manchester United legendary striker Dwight Yorke and Zoran Vranes.
The coaching staff would certainly be keeping an eye on the crucial World Cup qualifier against Bermuda on 2nd September, as this match against India would be a good teaser to analyze the team. The squad which has been selected for this friendly has a good mixture of youth and experience, as quite a handful of local players, striving for National team breakthrough, would be teaming up with veterans in critical positions. Coach Otto Pfister would be hoping to get the best results, which would provide useful input for the Bermuda game.
Marvin Philip is certain to start for the islanders as the custodian. The young T&T EC product, Akini Adams has also been included in the squad, and could be tested by Pfister under the bar. Joe Public defending pair Seon Powers and Carlyle Mitchell could team up with Akeem Adams and Kern Cupid on the outer flanks. However there are chances that Defence Force club’s influential defender, Keston Williams, may also replace Carlyle Mitchell to start at the back.
Densill Theobald, the Caledonia AIA midfielder would be handling an extra responsilbity of captaining the side, apart from orchestrating attacks from the middle of the park. He could be assisted by club teammates Micah Lewis and Hughton Hector. Haydon Tinto could also be summoned by Otto Pfister, as the Joe Public midfielder has exposure to international games. Ex- Sunderland and Birmingham Striker Stern John has made a successful return to the national squad, after being sidelined by a knee injury. He would certainly be the man to mark for Gouramangi Singh led defense, as his experience could really spell trouble for ambitious looking Indian team. Stern John could be partnered up front by local lad Andre Toussant, who would certainly like to put in an impressive performance.
Here is the final 20 member T&T squad for the game on Sunday:
Goalkeepers—Marvin Phillip, Akini Adams
Defenders— Keston Williams, Noel Williams, Kern Cupid, Akeem Adams, Seon Powers, Carlyle Mitchell
Midfielders—Densill Theobald , Anthony Wolfe, Micah Lewis, Hayden Tinto, Andrei Pacheco, Akeil Guevera, Hughton Hector, Akim Armstrong
Forwards – Stern John, Juma Clarence, Andre Toussaint, Darryl Roberts.
FIFA RANKING : 153
Team India was lauded by many football buffs after an ambitious display of character at the Ambedkar Stadium, against a disciplined UAE side, where the Indian team might have bowed out of the World cup qualification contention, but only after winning thousands of hearts, as the team fought their way back into the match and shared the honors with a much superior side. Indian fans still debate and rue the 3-0 loss in the first leg in Dubai which led to almost a dead rubber at Delhi, more so after the visitors had taken the lead.
There is no denial of the fact that Indian team was looking good and the difference in the style of play was quite obvious, from what the fans were used to observe earlier under Bob Houghton. In both the legs, the men in blue stuck to possession football and used the long ball occasionally.
The team is now slated to play two more matches against much higher ranked teams in the Caribbean, away from home. This is certainly another positive step taken by the federation to provide more exposure to the young team, which seems to gel quickly under Armando and Savio Mediara. The team takes on Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, which would be the virtual tour opener, after the Barbados debacle.
Initially, it was feared that many of the top notch regular starters would not be able to board the plane to the West Indies after many of the I-league clubs refused to release their players, fearing injuries and lack of practice with the team , before the Federation Cup and I-league kicks off in India. AIFF had to bend its back to get the players released and are now seeking FIFA’s help to get rid of such issues in future. Here is the final 23 member Indian squad on tour:
Goalkeepers – Subrata Pal, Karanjit Singh, Laxmikant Kattimani.
Defenders – Raju Gaikwad, GourmangiSingh, Valeriano Rebello, MaheshGawli, Samir Naik, DebabrataRoy, Rowilson Rodrigues, Robert Lalthalmuana.
Midfielfders – Rahim Nabi, Climax Lawrence, Steven Dias, Lalrindika Ralte, Peter Carvalho, Clifford Miranda, Rocus Lamare, Mehtab Hosain.
Forwards – Jeje Lalpeklua, Sunil Chhetri, S Sabeeth, Sushil Singh.
Once again we can expect to see the overlapping runs of Debabrata Roy and veteran Samir Naik from the flanks, exchanging neat passes with wingers Steven Dias, and Syed Rahim Nabi. After his impressive performance in the last game, Lalrindika Ralte might be used as a super sub in the second half. Mehtab Hussain, who impressed all with his typical double engine performances, is once again expected to start alongside Dempo man Climax Lawrence at the heart of midfield. However the delayed arrival of the Bengal duo Mehtab and Nabi because of Visa related issues means that they could hardly acclimatized themselves with the conditions here at Barbados and this may force Armando to tinker with the starting formation a bit.
Indian strike force upfront comprises of usual suspects – Sunil Chettri, Pune FC prodigy Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sushil Singh and CS Sabeeth. Sunil and Jeje will pair up again to shoulder the scoring responsibilities for team India. East Bengal striker Baljit Sahni is one of the few notable absentees from the World cup qualifier squad. The strikers will surely have their work cut out as they would be up against a physically stronger contingent of T&T defenders.
Armando Colaco could also start with the experinced Mahesh Gawli at the back. Rocus Lamare, the young energetic midfielder from the I-league champions Salgaocer could also be tested in tough away conditions. Team Colaco-Savio would be keeping a close eye on the new players in the squad , and would certainly give a few of them chances to make a difference on the tour. CS Sabeeth, the lanky striker was so instrumental in Viva Kerala’s aim to avoid the drop last season, would also turn up on the field to prove a point to his critics.
Expected Line-Up: Subrata Pal, Samir Naik, Raju Gaekwad, Gouramangi Singh, Debabrata Roy, Steven Dias, Climax Lawrence, Mehtab Hussain, Syed Rahim Nabi, Sunil Chettri, Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Without ruffling much feathers, India should concentrate on showcasing a robust and impressive performance on this tour, as it could help India improve its dismal FIFA ranking. Armando Colaco, who took a brave decision, is certainly relishing the challenge as it would put his lads up against a stern test against former World Cup participants and would be hoping that Indians do justice to the tour in terms of learning and growing as a team.
On the other hand Otto Pfister would be hoping to do a litmus test on side before the big WC Qualifier matches starting from 2nd September against Bermuda, which is to be played out at the same stadium. As the Indian Football fraternity takes a positive notice of the steps taken by the AIFF, like increasing the prize money for the Indian version of FA Cup, The Federation Cup and santioning the India U-23 tour to UK , Indian team would be hoping to echo the good news and try to show some teeth in Port of Spain tommorow.