Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
23rd Feb, 2011 – 7:00 PM IST
After the “much talked about” Indian performance in the recently concluded Asian games in Doha, where Bob’s men slumped to expected heavy defeats in the group stage, there were a number of positives to be drawn from the big stage tournament, one in which India participated after 1984. The AFC cup participation was perceived as a snow ball thrown from the top of the snow laden cliff, eventually pushing the Indian national team 16 places up in the latest FIFA rankings. India, who are now ranked 144th in FIFA rankings, will play the first leg against 145th ranked Myanmar at Balewadi Sports Complex Pune, gifting the fast growing football city their first FIFA pre-Olympics qualifying encounter. The second leg is slated for March 9 in Yangon.
Thirty-five teams from Asia have their name in the bucket to grab the three-and-a-half slots reserved for the continent for the Olympics. The 22 lowest ranked teams, based on final round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and on the qualifiers, were drawn to play in a home-and-away format on February 23 and March 9, 2011, with the winners making it to round two. The 11 winners from the first round will join the 13 highest ranked teams in the second round, where they will again play in a home-and-away format on June 19 and 23 respectively. The 12 winners will then be divided into three groups of four teams each in the third round. Again, a home-and-away format from September 21, 2011 to March 14, 2012, will determine the winners who will represent the continent in the Olympics. Playoff matches will commence at a centralized venue from March 25 to 29, 2012 between the three second-placed teams from the third round, and the winners of this group will book a berth in the Olympics. (Meeting with CAF official)
As the young version of Bhangra boys look to kick start the first round of football qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics, there is very little to predict from this encounter, as almost all the players apart from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu traveled with the national team to Doha last month. Past history favors the Indian Boys, as they got the better of The White Angels, having beaten them 4-1 in penalty shoot-out at Kolkata (1-1 in regulation time) on February 4, 2007 before drawing 1-1 in Yangon three days later in their 2008 Beijing Olympic qualifiers to advance to the next round. India had advanced to the second round back then. AIFF announced the final list of 18 players to play against Myanmar under the mentorship of Desmond Buplin in the match tomorrow.Surprisingly, Sabeeth, Arindam Bhattacharya and Robin Singh were left out, and only East Bengal’s Nirmal Chhetri and Mohun Bagan left back Nallapan Mohanraj were retained, as both defenders have had a good season so far in the league. These were the only players who ply their trade in a club, other than AIFF’s own Indian Arrows in the I-league. Arindham Bhattacharya has been troubled by a nagging shoulder injury which kept the Churchill Brothers goalkeeper out of the AFC Asia cup as well. The following player made the cut:
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Jagroop Singh
Defenders: Abhishek Das, Nirmal Chhetri, Raju Gaekwad (Captain), Mohanraj , Lalrozama Fenai, Deepak Devrani
Midfielders: Lalrindika Ralte, Jewel Raja Sheikh, Shilton D’Silva, Jibon Singh, Ongram Milan Singh, Subodh Kumar
Strikers: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Malswamfela, Manandeep Singh, Jagtar Singh
Apart from Nirmal Chhetri and Mohanraj, all the players play their domestic football for Indian Arrows in the I-league and are coached by the same coach, Desmond Buplin; the British coach is in charge of the side for the Olympic qualifiers. This could turn put to be a major advantage for the team as they gear up for the big match. It will be a big occasion for all the young under- 23 lads, who would like to prove their mettle again after the SAFF Cup glory in 2009, as it will be interesting to see how they sync up with each other.
Expected Line Up – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Moharaj, Raju Gaekwad, Nirmal Chettri, Lalrozama, Lalrindika, Jibon, Jewel, Shilton, Jeje, Malswamfela.
Goalkeepers: Kyaw Zin Htet, Hein Kyaw Thu
Defenders: Kyaw Kyaw Myo, Yan Myo Aung, Min Ko Ko, Zaw Min Tun (Captain), Yan Aung Win, Nyar Na Lwin, Aung Hein Kyaw, Naing Soe Wai
Midfielders: David Htan, Yan Aung Kyaw, Zaw Lin, Thein Than Win
Strikers: Mai Aih Naing, Kyi Lin, Pyae Phyo Oo, Soe Myat Thu
The Milan Zivadinovic-mentored side will take on the young Indian boys, hoping to spring a surprise and bag a good result to work upon, as they would return the favor to Indian lads in few days time during the return leg. The Serbian coach has assembled a good batch of young and quick players capable of threatening the Indian back line. Myanmar come off a lean patch, having strung together two consecutive heavy defeats in December last year. It would be a very interesting battle on the field, as the two young sides battle it out for a place in Round 1.
With AFC Challenge Cup just around the corner, it is the litmus test for the young players from the current crop, with many of them making it to the list of 44 probables for the tournament. It would be too early to comment on the AIFF plan to have a separate team in the top division for the Under-23 lads, but good results in the pre-Olympic qualifiers will certainly attest the good measures taken by AIFF, taking the beautiful game in the right direction.
Excerpt from Official Press Conference:
Milan Zivadinovic , Head Coach – Myanmar
– Inspiration and Motivation to play against India
– My Team is ready
– Two weeks of preparation
– Team is without international experience
– I am satisfied with work ethic and discipline of the team
– We have a good chance against India
– We target not to lose
– No injuries
– Don’t forget there are two legs.
Desmond Bulpin , Head Coach – India
– The team is preparing for a week together for this tie
– Players are a bit tired cause of the ongoing I-League fixtures
– But I am satisfied the way we have shaped up
– Our main keeper Arindam is injured out
– This is a difficult game
– They have an experienced coach
– We have home advantage and will go for a win
– I am quite confident that we will do it
– Pitch has improved. Its going to be same for both teams
– Robin Singh wont be playing has there are some technical complications.