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The favourites need to improve their display after a hapless performance against Pakistan in their opener…

GOALBY   RAHUL BALI     Follow @rahulatma on twitter

Much has been spoken about the style of play over the last two years since the departure of former coach Bob Houghton. The Barcelona model of ‘pass-and-move’ brand of football is being heralded as the one to emulate and rightly so.

However for someone to even come close to the above mentioned system, one needs to understand that for it to be effective, those set of players are trained from an early age to do so. As early as a seven or eight year old.

Most of the Indian players aren’t used to such a playing style at their club level too as none except Dempo SC are known to play it over the years.


It must be noted that when Wim Koevermans took over the reins as the national coach over a year back, when asked whether the present set of players are technically proficient to play the brand of football he plans to employ, the reply to Goal was, “The videos of the national team which I have seen so far have highlighted the phases of the match where we keep the ball well and that shows we have the ability to do it. Strangely enough, all of a sudden we choose to kick the ball forward high up in the air resulting in losing possession of the ball and it results in us defending again. That’s the area the players need to improve on and I know we can.”

While the Dutchman has acknowledged the issue, sadly not much progress has been made with regards to keeping the ball with or without any pressure.

Pakistan isn’t the most high profile team at the SAFF Championship and neither is their form commendable, coming on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Afghanistan, though it must be noted that they were augmented by the presence of four foreign based players in their line-up. One expected India to put in a far better performance than an exhibition of aimless ‘kick-and-run’ style.

You can’t fault the Dutchman in his intentions of trying to employ a ‘pass-and-move’ style of play but the fact of the matter is – the players at his disposal aren’t the best lot in doing so.

The national team is a fair reflection of the national league and to be honest, several of the I-League games aren’t played at a very high level either. Not many teams can boast of keeping the ball and when they do, often it is the foreign players at the heart of it.

At times the expectation supersedes the reality which is precisely the case with India. You need players who have better ball control, with an ability to maneuver it and it is for this very reason that you need the I-League clubs to start an academy with the philosophy of Koevermans and Robert Baan being instilled.

Expectations supersedes the reality

Unless the basics are taken care of, you can’t expect an exciting brand of football. If you do, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one getting frustrated.

On the positive side, India didn’t concede an early goal. Credit must be given to the Indian back-line with Subrata Paul and Gouramangi Moirangthem in impressive form. The last time India kept a clean sheet was against Guam in the Challenge Cup qualifiers where they won 4-0 in Myanmar.

Koevermans in his post-match media address pointed to his wish of having Sunil Chhetri further forward on the pitch. Chhetri cut a frustrated figure upfront as the midfielders never really provided any service to him. He eventually had to drop back in order to win the ball to create an opening which left a hole upfront.

The player playing behind the striker needs to link up the midfield and attack, a task in which Alwyn George failed miserably on the given day. In the second half, Jewel Raja pressed well but couldn’t create anything of note.

While India has certainly done well to have three points in their kitty, they certainly need to up the tempo to justify the ‘we are the team to beat in the competition’ tag which Koevermans heralded in the pre-match conference.


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