India's Mehtab Hossain: Afghanistan are a strong side

Hossain takes dig at Afghanistan stating FIFA ranking don't count as factors in tournament finals, while staking India's right to be in the final...

GOALBY   AYUSH SRIVASTAVA     Follow @ayush_sri on twitter

Some of India’s poor performances during the SAFF Championship have come under severe criticism back home, as the Blue Tigers limped into the semi-finals, before downing Maldives 1-0 to make it into the final.

Central midfielder Mehtab Hossain though, felt that comparisons with the teams of the past were unfair and that the present side had lots of potential. He commented, “We didn’t play well in the group stages but raised our game against Maldives in the semi-final and deserve to be in the final. See comparisons with that team (under Bob Houghton) are harsh because they used to have long camps abroad and spent more time together.”

However he felt that with more game-time together, this team could do better, stating, “We haven’t had such benefits (of regular practice and games) and haven’t played enough international matches also. I think this team will improve with time but regular games are a must,”

The East Bengal player was full of praise for the displays of the Afghanistan side so far, however he felt that the fact that they were six spots above India in the FIFA rankings will not be a factor, once the side enter the pitch.

He said, “(The) FIFA ranking doesn’t matter really. It’s just about performing on the given day and if we can match our semi-final display then we will have a great chance of retaining the title. Afghanistan are a strong side and have quality foreign-based players including their striker Balal (Arezou) who played in the I-League as well.”

For Mehtab, his week doesn’t end with just the final against Afghanistan, but he would have to immediately leave for club duty, as the Red and Gold take on Indonesia’s Semen Padang in the first leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final.

Hence with a very small gap between games in the SAFF Championship, the player has to look after himself, to ensure he does not pick up any sort of injury.

He informed, “Yes, it’s a big few days for me, so hopefully I will be able to remain fit and perform well for club and country.”


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