India host Philippines at Siliguri’s Kachenjunga Stadium in what will be their first international match following the 2-0 defeat in the final of the SAFF Championship to Afghanistan in September this year.
Michael Weiß’s team are the highest ranked nation in South East Asia at 137 as compared to India’s 154th position.
"I see the rankings as not too much of a importance, because the rankings only reflect momentary situations and sometimes you cannot understand the rankings. What is important is what is going on, on the pitch. What I see in the videos and I see that India has made very good progress compared to March last year, when we played against them in Nepal.
“So that is the reality and not the FIFA rankings. But I expect our team to go strong in this battle and expect a very physical and pressing encounter. We have to be ready and have to be sure that we are a better team, but not with words, but on the pitch."
He noticed definite improvement in India’s playing style under Wim Koevermans and that there were several fresh young faces in the team.
"What I can see is that the pace of the football is become better and the system that the coach (Wim Koevermans) has tried to implement is getting more and more into place. It takes time obviously and there have been some changes compared to the SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) tournament so there will be some young and ambitious players who would like to show that they deserve a place in the national team. So I expect these players to be very hungry and aggressive. So it will be a tough encounter for us."
Philippines who had lost their last friendly match against UAE 4-0 recently, have two new players to add to that squad in Frankfurt’s Stephan Schrock and Switzerland-based goalkeeper Roland Muller.
"We have two new players. We have one player from Eintracht Frannkfurt in Stephan Schröck, who is like a leader recently, having played very well for the national team. We have our top goalkeeper Roland Muller who is currently playing the second league in Switzerland for Servette FC."
On being asked whether European based players in the team will help to increase the levels in the squad, Michael was cagey in his reply. He praised their performance against Pakistan but also reckoned that India will be a tougher nut to crack and drew parallels with the current Philippines team.
"It's going to be difficult to predict. Just because a player in playing in Europe - about three or four of them - does not make a world of difference. Obviously, Europe has different kind of football. Here we have really fast paced football and sometimes little bit hectic. Sometimes we are playing under the sun, but I think the players have to adjust. It took me two-to-three years to get the team in a good shape together. That will be interesting to see but it's the general statement that you have to prove yourself again and again. Just one month ago, we had a game against Pakistan, where we did well.”
"I think India is the rising power in football. It will just take some time and patience. Sometimes we have a tendency to expect too fast too much. So give the coach time to develop something and don't expect because India is the world power that you also can win the World Cup in football. It takes time. I see the same thing with the Philippines. We have some decent progress, but we can become much, much better. The people already have the tendency to think that we can already go to the World Cup, which is not the case."
He noted that the players were unfazed by the recent typhoon in their home country and said that the frequency of such occurrences had almost steeled them.
"The players are okay. Nobody is diverting, fortunately, except for the team manager. We have had many of these natural disasters. In 2011, we were in Japan when the tsunami happened. We were there on the pitch and we felt the earth shaking. Much later we played in Myanmar - another earthquake. So somehow I don't want to say we get used to these things, but life goes on. You have to look ahead. You have to give people hope and do at least the little that we can do to contribute to positive thinking."
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