Wim Koevermans was a really happy man at full-time, as his boys had snatched a late winner against Maldives, which sent them into the finals.
The coach was delighted by the performance given by his wards and commented, “I am very proud of the boys today. I think they played a good game and that’s how they play when completely free to play. This is how good India can be. They were very disciplined in everything we wanted to do. Defensively they were patient and once we got the ball, we played football.
“This is how they can be when they don’t load themselves with lots of pressure. In first three games they put themselves under pressure and there you see different players on the ground to the one I know. But today is the team I know it can be. Very good combinations and everyone played a very good game,” he added.
“In the second half we felt they were going forward and didn’t know where to pass the ball. I think we (were the deserved winners of the day. I am very happy to show how good they (the players) can be,” he continued.
Speaking about what he thought regarding Maldives’ change in system, the Dutchman stated, “They played a different 3-5-2 system and we had to be patient. If they say they dominated, it’s in their own half and that’s not dangerous. When they come in our half, we won the ball many times. We had some very good attacks, we knew it would go our way if we were patient enough.”
The Indian head coach disagreed with Istvan Urbanyi’s observation that Maldives were the better side and felt in the second half his side were far superior and mentioned, “They of course have a striker who knows how to deal with the space and in the second half they didn’t know what to do with the ball going forward. To be honest I don’t care what others think and it was a great performance by India today. We showed what the real India is.”
When quizzed if this was the best performance by his side under him, he opined, “Well sometimes you have to look beyond results but I also need to see my team taking steps in the right direction. When the pressure is high we needed to step-up play like this and today we did. I think we have done better before but not always have got the right result. For me, it’s important to see that the boys are improving.”
Robin Singh was tasked with the job to fill-in for Sunil Chhetri and the coach was full of praise for him. He said, “I am proud of him. It is not an easy task replacing the captain in a semi-final of the SAFF cup and I always kept him with the team as he has special qualities. Today he was in the game from the first minute and so I am proud of his performance.”
On being reminded about Ali Ashfaq’s comments that this was the weakest Indian side ever, Koevermans said his side often look to take inspiration from such quotes. He stated, “Well coaches do that (take advantage of such comments), when we hear such things about the performance. To be honest we didn’t play well but if the opposition talks about our team then we have got to use it”
The final shall see a repeat of the 2011 clash, something that many Afghan fans have prayed for, in order for their side to get their ‘revenge’ for what they perceive as injustice in the last final. Looking forward to the game, the coach revealed, “It’s going to be an interesting game and Afghanistan are a good team. They have improved themselves over the past two years, but we are here to win the cup and our goal was to play five finals and win the cup. It’s some 90 plus minutes left to achieve our goal but it’s going to be a very interesting game.”
When asked if it would be an advantage for the Lions of Khorasan that they have a day more to rest and recover, Koevermans opined, “Nothing can done about it. Those three days (before semi-final) helped. Now Afghanistan have two days and we one, and that’s the way it is. So far we have dealt with it well as there are no injuries. So that’s a big compliment to our medical staff.”