The Indian national team landed at the Khujand International Airport for their international friendly against Tajikistan on Wednesday...
The Tajikistan Football Federation hired a chartered flight for the Indian team to fly to Khujand from Dushanbe. This was after the Men in Blue missed the connecting flight from Dushanbe to Khujand courtesy a four-hour delay at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport in India.
The international friendly against Tajikistan is slated to be played on 14 August at the 20 Years of Independence Stadium in Khujand. The kick-off is scheduled for 5.30 pm (IST).
"Unfortunately our exposure tour in June got cancelled," India coach Wim Koevermans rued at the first instance. "The tour did look nice as there was a match each against Pakistan and Bangladesh as there was a match against England ‘C.’ It would have been a nice experience to play in front of NRIs and on good pitches.
"Since taking over as India’s national coach, my priority has been to play as many international friendlies as possible, as you need the experience to get better. Playing against Tajikistan will be another experience for the boys and I can tell you, they are a very tough side," he elaborated.
"I have seen videos of them (Tajikistan). But they have a new coach (Mukhsin Mukhamadiev). So you never know – their style of play may change," the Dutchman claims to have done his share of research on his Asian rivals.
He added, "But it’s about playing such strong sides that you learn a lot. You still go back to the Nehru Cup final where we beat Cameroon [B team] and the experience of playing such a quality side was just incredible. Such matches make you realise that you need to win such games if you aim to go up higher. We are looking for a good match."
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With regard to the fresh changes in his squad, Koevermans has admitted that it would be interesting to observe how the players adapt to the mix.
"They may be new faces in the team, but they are not new to me. They were there in the camp in Pune prior to the AFC Challenge Cup – Malsawmtluanga, Arnab [Mondal], Sandesh [Jhingan]. Unfortunately, some of them had to be left out as they picked up injuries. So they are not new to me, just that they would be new in the set-up.
"It will obviously be interesting to see how they behave and adapt. At the same time, you cannot forget the experienced players," he continued.
"You may be prompted to think that someone playing well in the league would be an instant hit at the international Front. But it’s not the case. International matches are of much higher level than any domesticleague match as you play against the best players of that respective country. So you have to draft players slowly into your squad. You can never hurry into it."
Chalking his plans for the SAFF Championship 2013, the 53-year-old threw a ray of hope to the players who haven't been selected for the Tajikistan friendly.
"We had to leave some players out because of their lack of training time with their respective clubs. However, I can bring in everybody into the preparatory camp for the SAFF Championship in Bangalore as I will have more time to look at them. We will have enough training sessions to focus on them. At the moment, almost everyone is practicing hard and I only hope they maintain a decent level of fitness, prior to joining the camp in Bangalore.
"I hope the players get attached with a club as soon as possible and play throughout the season to be considered for the national team. You need to understand the decision of leaving out some players benefits them in the longer run – we don’t want them to get injured at the moment. After all, it’s an International Friendly, the intensity of which is much higher."
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