Nickname – Blue Tigers
FIFA Ranking – 168
Coach – Wim KoevermansThe Dutchman’s first assignment as India’s new head coach is to try and defend the Nehru Cup. With the teams in the fray and the change in playing style he is trying to instill in his squad, it is quite an uphill task.
The 1988 European Championship winning defender is taking over a senior national side for the first time, but he has rich experience of having worked as a High Performance Director with Republic of Ireland, as well as a youth coach with Netherlands, apart from stints with several Eredivisie clubs.
|13 Mar 12||India||0-4||DPR Korea|
|11 Mar 12||India||0-2||Philippines|
|9 Mar 12||India||0-2||Tajikistan|
|27 Feb 12||India||0-3||Azerbaijan|
|23 Feb 12||India||1-5||Oman|
India’s recent form is nothing worth writing home about. Under their erstwhile head coach Savio Medeira, they lost all their last five competitive games, including the three in the AFC Challenge Cup 2012.
The wretched run under Medeira started with a friendly against Oman, which the Blue Tigers lost 5-1. But it only got worse for the Indian side, as they failed to score a single goal in their next four games, losing 3-0 to Azerbaijan, and by a scoreline of 2-0 to both, Tajikistan and Philippines. DPR Korea hammered them 4-0, to bring down the curtains on Savio Medeira’s reign.
TACTICS, STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Under Savio Medeira, the national side did not really have an attacking philosophy, banking on individual moments of inspiration to try and score a goal. There was a complete lack of cohesiveness in the team.
However things are expected to change under Koevermans, who wants to instill a pass-and-move style of playing in the team. While such a transformation cannot be expected overnight, from the former Netherlands International’s interviews lately, it can be seen that the coach is happy with the progress being made by the side in training, and is also surprised by the under-rated technical proficiency of the Blue Tigers.
The squad’s strength is obviously the home support and the fact that with them being the lowest ranked side in the competition, the pressure will be slightly less on the squad. There have been a whole host of changes in the playing squad as well, meaning that Koevermans has handed the whole team a clean slate, and if the side plays as fearlessly as their U-22 counterparts, then India could very well surprise a few sides in the competition.
Apart from the new playing style, which is alien to many Indian players, the core of the side also looks very inexperienced and slightly wobbly. While the attack seems decent, even after Jeje Lalpekhlua’s exclusion, the central midfield and defense is not India’s strength. In a playing philosophy where central midfielders are perhaps the most integral part of the gameplan, India’s options, though talented, lack experience at the highest level.
In defense too, Gouramangi Moirangthem is coming off a very poor domestic season, while Raju Gaikwad too was in and out of the side.
Sunil Chhetri– Needless to say, the Sporting Clube de Portugal “B” side striker is presently on a professional high, having finally gotten a chance to play in Europe, even if footballing reasons were not the only criteria that led to the deal.
There is no doubting, that no matter how he plays for his club side, the striker has always been in form for the national side, taking on the mantle of India’s talisman from Bhaichung Bhutia. Up against some decent outfits, the former Mohun Bagan striker has the chance to prove his critics wrong, who feel he is a flat-track bully.
Having been nominated as the captain of the side, the forward has even more of a motivation to make up for the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 fiasco.
Alwyn George – The youngster has not yet made his senior debut but was the star player of India’s U-22 side in the AFC U-22 Championship qualifiers. In Koevermans new look formation, the Pailan Arrows striker will play an integral role, as his movement and link-up play, as well as the ability to drift into the box with late runs are difficult to track.
A real livewire with a good work-rate, this is a glorious opportunity for the youngster to stamp his mark on the national side.
CHANCES OF WINNING THE NEHRU CUP - 3.5/5
While the Blue Tigers are the lowest ranked side in the competition, home advantage, their tag as defending champions and relatively good record against Maldives and Nepal as well as past tournament history with Syria means that India can be tagged as joint second favourites for the title.
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