Amongst all the brouhaha around the new ‘pass-and-move’ brand of football, the importance of possession, the debate on how the beautiful game ought to be played and the Indians underestimating their technical skills, there was one individual who added a tinge of realism ahead of India’s Nehru Cup opener against Syria.
Not that all of the above is wrong and shouldn’t be propagated, but it certainly does raise the expectations of a fan. When a player mentions that they are adapting well to the new system of play, an Indian football fan would hope to see the same on the pitch in the very next match.
|In the game against Syria, the irony of it was that the first kick of the game by the Indians was a long pass!|
“Adaptation to the new style under a new coach needs patience. Just because of the new setup, you can’t expect miracles,” Chhetri quipped.
And how true his words were as the scenario was similar to what one saw at Liverpool. A new coach in Brendan Rodgers, like Wim Koevermans in India, being entrusted the job to change the manner in which the game is played and alongside ensure that the team successfully climbs up the table, or the rankings ladder in the case of India. However the fans were in for a rude shock when the Reds suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss to West Brom on the opening day of the Premier League’s new season.
Brendan Rodgers is in the same boat
“There is a big job to do and we will have more days like this along the way. That is the reality of it. It is still a work in progress,” said Rodgers as he analysed the performance of his side, who couldn’t adapt to the new style in spite of having trained under the new manager for close to two months.
In the game against Syria, the irony of it was that the first kick of the game by the Indians was a long pass! However they did try to pass the ball along the ground and at times, did manage to string together six-to-seven passes at best, which is commendable going by the Indian standards.
In the opening 35 minutes, before the Rain Gods showered their blessings, India failed to create any openings and the only real attempt was a snapshot by Sunil Chhetri which went wide by miles. The possession until that point was 50:50 and the best chances befell the Syrians and it was thanks to the profligacy of Hani Altyar and Mardek Mardikian that the scoreline remains goal-less. Raju Gaikwad, at centre-back, was at fault on all three occasions when the Syrians should have found the back of the net though credit must be given to an alert Subrata Paul who did well on a couple of occasions.
Pass and toil | The possession style did exist until it was allowed to
When the play resumed, the Red Eagles had another three opportunities, once again Gaikwad being the weak link in the Indian defence, but luck was very much in India’s favour as was evidenced by Clifford Miranda making a goal-line clearance in the 40th minute.
Chhetri, whose form with the national team has been exceptional to say the least, doesn’t miss many opportunities that come his way and he gave another example of the same on Wednesday. He rose to a cross from the left by Clifford and caught Mohammed Zubaida napping to head it home. This was a psychological blow to the Syrians, who until that point in the game were in top form. This was a Syrian team who hadn’t played an international game for over a year due to the political turmoil in the nation.
In the second half, the Syrians couldn’t pass due to the waterlogged pitch and hence they resorted to the long ball strategy which worked well for the Indians who were dogged in the defence except for a few lapses in concentration.
The goal by Anthony Pereira was a moment of sheer class after Lenny Rodrigues did well to find him in space with a cross field pass, which you don’t get to see often in Indian football.
With the new style of play now in action
Koevermans, though pleased with his side’s efforts, did mention that there are areas to improve stating, “We are going to improve with every game. There were a few things in the first half we need to improve.”
Agreed that India never got to the chance to exhibit the new style which they have been tutored on by Koeavermans, but in the first half hour, they were all over the place.
While this isn’t a stinging criticism of the coach or the brand of football he wants to introduce, but to suggest that such projects, where one has to alter the style or the formation, do take time to fructify, as is the case with Liverpool. Patience must be exercised and Koevermans cannot totally change the system within a matter of three weeks training. His philosophy is admirable to say the least with his priority to refine the way the game is played, but 'Rome wasn't built in a day'.
And just to reiterate Chhetri’s statement: “You cannot expect miracles.”