BY RAHUL BALI Follow @rahulatma on twitter
India hasn’t won an international friendly away from home in the last eight years or so. And the wait shall continue as they went down 3-0 against Tajikistan ahead of the SAFF Championship where they have to defend their title.
Wim Koevermans, the national coach, highlighted that on most occasions when India does play, it is against higher ranked sides and hence it isn’t always an easy job to secure a win.
“We always play strong opposition who are much higher ranked than us. And when you play a higher-ranked opposition the chance of losing the match stays much higher. At the same time it’s necessary to play higher ranked teams as it’s important to learn from them,” he explained.
“Sometimes losing is a part of the process. We always take a lot of good things from our performances when we play stronger opposition,” he added philosophically.
India has had a tendency to concede early over the last year or so, an area which the coach has indentified and is working to rectify.
“Tajikistan (game) was a learning process for us. The team is improving with every match but it’s not always showing in the results. It’s always a worry to concede early and we definitely need to work out on that.”
Koevermans has spoken at length of the need to retain possession and play along the ground ever since he took over the reins as the India coach last year. On being queried on the progress made with regards to players keeping the ball, Koevermans mentioned that there is a lot to be done to build the side.
“Some matches during my tenure have got cancelled and a lot of new players have come into the squad. We would like to build the team further and get exposure for the national team to take those necessary steps.”
Given that the matches at SAFF Championship are to be held on a grass surface, Koevermans took time to explain his decision to train on an artificial turf at the Bangalore stadium as part of their preparation for the tournament.
“If you look back, you will find that we did the same even prior to the Nehru Cup where we were forced to shift base in Bangalore courtesy rains in Delhi. I would have preferred to train on a better training ground as I’m not sure as to what kind of practice area we would get once we land in Kathmandu. Also the temperature in Bangalore stayed almost the same as to what we would get in Kathmandu – so that stayed an added advantage,” he reasoned.
“I’m confident the boys would acclimatize and adjust to the grass in Nepal. It’s exactly the same situation which we had prior to the Nehru Cup exactly a year ago,” he stated confidently.
The scheduling of the SAFF Championship is such that teams play every alternate day with just a day’s rest being afforded which isn’t ideal for recovery of the players. In the past, several coaches have been vocal about the same.
While Koevermans didn’t stress on the above but was aware of the challenges that come with such a cramped schedule.
“Every match is tough especially when you play every alternate day. We stay aware that India are the team to beat in the championship. But we will be there to win and play all the five games.
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