The boys are much better than what they think they are.We are on the right track and the atmosphere in the camp is good. Everyone is working hard.The camp in Bangalore was extremely fruitful. The boys worked really hard. Now, we have to see how they perform against stronger opposition. I think the match against Syria would be very interesting.
National Coach Wim Koevermans sounding confident after a practice session
It is being billed as the start of a new era in Indian Football and the Nehru Cup has never been more eagerly awaited and important in its entire history. A new coach, the promise of playing possession style game, 75 years of AIFF establishment mean that the fans are eagerly awaiting start of the tournament.
With the 20 member squad still to be announced, Wim Kovermeans and his boys are raring to put in an impressive showing to erase the memories of a disappointing AFC Challenge Cup.TheHardTackle looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian team and analyzes the opportunities that the Nehru Cup 2012 presents along with the imminent threats.
Team India can count on a home support which will be present in their matches to cheer for them. Delhi has always witnessed packed stadia whether it was World Cup qualifiers or the SAFF Cup. Such has been the response that Baichung Bhutia once exclaimed that India could defeat any Asian opponent in Delhi. The home support will act as the 12th man and is undoubtedly team’s biggest strength.
If the back-four is India’s biggest worry, then the goal-keeping department is its biggest strengths. Indian goal-keepers time and again have made their mark in Asia. Subrata Paul impressed one and all in the Asian Cup and his confidence must be sky high after having trials with a German club. Giving him tough competition is the man from Punjab – Karanjeet Singh. Karanjeet was arguably the best keeper in last season of I-League where he did a superb job for Salgaocar. The national team would definitely look for an impressive performance from its keeper.
The defense has been a constant trouble for team India with the team letting in a number of soft-goals in the AFC Challenge. The defenders, with the exception of Syed Rahim Nabi, have been often found too slow to react. The team has also let in a number of goals from the set-pieces – something which the physically stronger players from Cameroon and Syria would be looking to exploit. Koevermans has his task cut out and will be hoping that the defenders can lift their game. Reports coming in from the camp also suggest that Koevermans has been laying special emphasis on defense
Proving a Point
It is a great chance for the national team to prove that it is a lot better than reflected by the FIFA ranking of 168. A win against Nepal and Maldives would establish India as the team to beat in South-east Asia after a lot of doubts have been raised over India’s supremacy in the region. Strong performances against Cameroon and Syria would also fetch India a lot of ranking points which is need of the hour.
A Chance for Young Players
With senior players like Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli retiring, it is a relatively new look Indian squad and this gives an opportunity to the young turks to establish themselves as regulars. The likes of Alwyn George, Milan Singh and Manandeep Singh will be gunning to impress the coach after an impressive AFC U-22 campaign. Alwyn George in particular has impressed in AFC U22 qualifiers and is already being tipped as the man to watch out for. Salgaocar trio of Francis Fernandez, Gilbert Olivera and Rocus Lamhare will also look to make a mark. Sanju Pradhan has impressed in the build-up to the Nehru Cup and will be looking to impress after getting a well deserved call-up. Same holds true for the likes of Jewel Raja, Joaquim Abranches and Denzil Franco.
An Opportunity to Experiment For Koevermans
Due to India’s poor FIFA ranking, the national team gets to play very few international matches per year and with a new coach at the helm of affairs, the Nehru Cup with 4 matches is of utmost importance. Wim Koevermans will be looking to understand the players and develop a relationship with them. India are the defending champions and retaining the title will no doubt be on Kovermans’s mind but he will also look to try out different players and formations in a bid to build a team for future. It is an ideal opportunity for him to inculcate the possesion based game and see how the players respond to it.
Over Dependence on Key Individuals
Along with goalkeeper, the national team is over-dependent on Sunil Chettri and Syed Rahim Nabi who lead forward and the defense line respectively. After a splendid SAFF cup where both Nabi and Chettri lead from the front, both of them have had a dip in form. Their insipid performance in the AFC Challenge led to an implosion of the Blue Tigers. The onus will be once again on these two individuals to show the way.
Lack of Match Practice
The lack of match practice before such an important tournament is no doubt a worry for coach Wim Koevermans given that most of the players are coming after the off-season. This might also prove to be a limiting factor given that team India will be adopting a new strategy. The only practice match the team played was against Palian Arrows which ended in a goal-less draw
Here is the probable 27 member Indian squad
GOALKEEPERS: Subrata Pal, Subhasish Roychowdhury, Karanjeet Singh.
DEFENDERS: Nirmal Chhetri, Denzil Franco, Gourmangi Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Khelemba Meitei, Syed Rahim Nabi, Mohan Raj.
MIDFIELDERS: Mehtab Hossain, Rocus Lamare, Milan Singh, Baldeep Singh, Jewel Raja, Francis Fernandes, Alwyn George, Anthony Pereira, Gilbert Oliviera, Sanju Pradhan, Clifford Miranda, Joaquim Abranches.
FORWARDS: Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manandeep Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua
22.08.2012 : India vs Syria
25.08.2012 : India vs Maldives
28.08.2012 : India vs Nepal
31.08.2012 : India vs Cameroon