India drew their first international friendly of the year 2-2 with Bangladesh and had Sunil Chhetri to thank for saving them the blushes.
It was India's first international friendly in 2014 and could have ended in embarrassment for the home side had Sunil Chhetri not grabbed a late equaliser to make it 2-2. India managed to hang on despite seeing goalkeeper Subrata Paul being sent off in the second half injury time.
When asked his thoughts on the game, Wim Koevermans said India recovered well but could have played much better overall, with their defense making a lot of mistakes.
"It was another exciting match against Bangladesh. We scored three times today but it was still a draw. We had a shaky start, but then picked up and scored a good goal and created quite a few chances after that to nearly finish off the game. Though I have to say Bangladesh played well and created a few good chances especially in the second half through the midfield that we had to deal with."
"In the second half we scored an own goal from a cross that was not that dangerous but that put us under pressure. Then we were 1-2 down in a home game wanting to win. Although we didn’t play great we created chances and it’s unbelievable how we missed such easy chances. I’ll have to look at them again. It was still 1-2 to Bangladesh and then the quality and class of Sunil Chhetri came up again. He scored an unbelievable goal to make it 2-2. Then we started to go for the 3-2 and that nearly cost us because of that double yellow card for Subrata Paul and they nearly scored from that."
“Overall I expected a better team today and I’m not really pleased with our performance although we created enough chances to score.There are a few things we have to work on. All in all a draw was not expected but we deserved our equalizer because in the last 20 minutes they were totally gone. So that was a positive thing."
When asked why India did not increase the tempo of the game, the coach said the side did much better in the second half and even went close on a few occasions.
"Our strategy was to get the ball forward and build but we didn’t start well and we started building from the back and gave the ball away and gave them chances and that made the team a little bit nervous .And we played in their half and although they could have countered they had only 2 shots on target in the first half. Clifford Miranda’s shot missed the goal by an inch. Robin Singh and Sunil had a few chances so we should have finished that off and it would have become easier because 1-0 is always easier."
India gave the opposition too much time and space on the ball and the coach said that this was a problem after midfield lynchpin Mehtab Hossain went off injured.
"We had a problem in midfield when their players dropped off to receive the ball and our players were waiting instead of putting pressure. We did better in the second half but it was a pity that Mehtab got injured because he is one of the guys that goes forward, but it’s okay because other guys get to play.
"We are always very good in the counterattack. But you also need to keep the ball. In many games, on the counter we have created many great chances. Against Nepal, we also played very well. We kept the ball for long periods, played from the back, got the midfielders and strikers into it with a lot of crosses and scored a lot of goals. Today we played a different team and they played well and kept the ball better in midfield than we did. It’s not like they created one chance after another, and we defended well. I would have liked to put them under more pressure. We are capable of doing it but today it was not enough."
Finally, when asked how many games India should play in a year, the coach said as many as possible, although the schedule was not ideal.
"As many as possible,” was his reply.
“We have the qualification dates and FIFA rounds and that’s all we have. Even these games, I was not completely happy that we had a full I–League programme before that but its okay. We have to deal with that. Boys have to get used to it. Some boys arrive only two days before the match because of travelling. But it’s not an excuse and we need to play as much as possible."
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