The Indian training camp is well and truly under-way in Pune, as Wim Koevermans puts his players through their paces, and looks for ways to solve several of the questions over the playing eleven, that arose thanks to the drubbing at the hands of Palestine.
In the aftermath of the game, Koevermans raised his doubts over the team’s ability to keep their concentration in the later phases of games and possibly their stamina.
"They play vigorously in the beginning only to lose ultimately. Before I took over as coach last year, I had watched several games India played and found out how they were at the receiving end of the match later in the game," an unhappy Koevermans said at the post-match conference.
"There was no strategy failure. Everything went according to plan in the first half. We have to analyse the second half and find out a solution to the teams repeated bad performance in the last session," he had further added.
This made Goal.com delve into the stats of the national team since 2011, and ponder over reasons, be it poor stamina, concentration or strategy, that has been the Blue Tigers’ undoing, over this period.
A look at when the team has been at its most vulverable...
In the past two years, the Blue Tigers have conceded a maximum 17 goals in and around the half-time whistle, while another 16 were let-in, in the first 20 minutes of the game.
What it signifies is that more than fatigue, the team is suffering due to not being able to take-up the initiative from the whistle.
In fact, while Wim Koevermans highlighted that it is an ill carried over from previous regimes, the Blue Tigers have conceded eight of their 10 goals under the Dutchman in the first 60 minutes.
Five of those 10 goals have come in the 40 to 60 minute bracket.
With 80% of the goals under Koevermans being conceded in the first 60 minutes, surely fatigue or lack of stamina cannot be blamed, as even local level players manage to keep their head above water for an hour!
Though Koevermans has a point that the side conceded plenty of goals in the later stages of games under Savio Medeira, but then one must consider that under the Goan, the Blue Tigers let-in plenty of goals in every phase! Hence comparisons between the team under the two coaches would be pointless.
Overall though, the team has over the past two years, conceded 16 goals in the first 20 minutes itself, which makes one question the tactics and concentration of the team.
This is one aspect that the team has improved upon under Wim Koevermans, with only one of the ten goals conceded in his reign, during the first 20 minutes period.
Can these issues be cleared out in training?...
However the fact that in the next 40 minutes phase, the team has conceded 70% of the goals, means that concentration, and not stamina, is the issue here.
But is that also not an issue to be looked at by Koevermans? Also it is quite evident from the stats above, that the team has in fact conceded far fewer goals in the later phases of the game, compared to the first few quarters. So the Dutchman’s observations in his post-match conference can be called debatable at best.
Though he was steadfast in defending his side’s tactics against Palestine, the team looked ill-prepared for the expected onslaught from the visiting side in the second half, and conceded three goals within 16 minutes of the re-start.
Even against Singapore, the side conceded both goals on either side of half-time. So that leads us to the question, what is leading to this lack of concentration?
The answer lies in the team composition. There are just too many players in the starting eleven, who are either not playing regularly at club level and/or are out of form, and some even taking their place for granted in the team, breeding complacency.
With a camp lasting a few weeks, Koevermans definitely has the time to right some of the ills that his team suffers from.
And while his choices, especially in the attacking area, are limited, the Dutchman can cure several other issues holding the team back, by naming a squad based on form and not previous ability. Only then is there a chance the team could secure their passage to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, by winning the qualifiers in Myanmar.
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