Koevermans should pick best XI over best known XI

As the Indian team is almost out of contention to make it into the Challenge Cup, Goal.com ponders over the various shortcomings of the Dutchman's team selection...
For the last few months a tall Dutch gentleman was a regular attendant in almost all the I-League matches in Kolkata. Often, he was the first to arrive and the only one to sit out in the VVIP box throughout the game. So, it would be daft to claim that Wim Koevermans, the coach of the Indian National football team, was not aware of the proceedings in the country's top flight league.

However, what surprises one is how he messed up with the team selection for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, sending India’s football dream in jeopardy. Koevermans, who was even part of the Euro winning squad of Holland in 1988, is certainly guilty of picking players based on their reputation, not taking their current form into consideration.

For example, the coach depended upon Raju Gaikwad to man the central defense alongside Gouramangi Moirangthem. But the young Indian defender has found it tough even to make it into the starting eleven of East Bengal from the start of this season. The Kolkata giants have the distinction of conceding the least number of goals in this year’s I-League and even managed 9 clean sheets in their first 10 games.

Along with the consistent Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal was the one who bore the responsibility of defending on his broad shoulders. The former U-23 international had shown good sense of tackling and man marking even during his stint with Prayag United last season. Still, the young Bengali defender failed to go into the good-books of Wim and was denied the National colours until very recently when he was called for the preparatory camp in Pune for the Challenge Cup qualifiers. Though an unfortunate injury forced him to stay out of action, it may be questioned why the consistent performer had to wait so long for a chance in place of an inconsistent and error prone defender in Gaikwad, who had not even made the bench at East Bengal for most of the season.

                                           Raju Gaikwad doesn't make it into the 18 at East Bengal

Gouramangi’s presence has also raised a few eyebrows, as he has not been in good touch in this edition of the I-League. Despite some heroics from Belo Rasaq, the star-studded Prayag United side failed to secure a single clean sheet during their first 10 matches. The experienced Indian center-back can be held partially responsible for that. However, Wim’s dependence on these popular faces meant that youngsters like Anas Edathodika will have to wait longer to don the prestigious Blue jersey.

The defense has been the major cause of concern for the Indian team over the last few years. Syed Rahim Nabi has been an exception, after the utility footballer had to settle down as a left back for the sake of the team. He won the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year title in 2012 for his fabulous performance in the position and his occasional runs down the wings, which created havoc in opposition ranks regularly. This talismanic campaigner was denied his share of first team action in the opening encounter of the Qualifiers, much to the agony of Indian football lovers.

Nabi however proved his mettle when he assisted India’s much important added time winning goal against Chinese Taipei after coming on late. Still, Wim Koevermans seemed unhappy with his performance and benched him again in the important final fixture against Myanmar. The nation paid for his weird decisions.

Wim is not very experienced to coach a weak footballing nation like India. If the team fails to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup, there will not be much football left for the National side except for the SAFF Championship later this year. This will by no means help AIFF’s mission to popularize the game.

The I-League has seen young talents like Holicharan Narzary and Alwyn George coming up, but Wim has rested his confidence on the regular faces of Manandeep Singh and Sushil Singh in his tenure.

                                                  Why isn't Bhowmick given a chance?

Among the consistent performers who were left out, Lalrindika Ralte and Lalkamal Bhowmick will find it hard to digest that they have been deprived a chance to feature regularly for the national side. Ralte has been outstanding in his limited number of appearances for East Bengal and has shown his ability to play in the number 10 role behind the forwards.

Bhowmick played the role of the pivot in the Prayag United team and few players in the I-League can snatch and pass the ball so elegantly like him. But they have seldom been afforded the chance.

In a nutshell, Wim Koevermans should choose players based on their recent form and potential, rather than picking them based on past laurels. And as we have been pointing it from the day one, this has not been the case.

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