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After Afghanistan defeated India in the finals to win their first SAFF Championship, the Dutchman accepted that the Lions of Khorasan were the better team...

Wim Koevermans had long maintained that the team needed to get through five finals to defend their SAFF Championship title. After stuttering past the four hurdles, the Blue Tigers finally came crashing down, in a game in which they failed to take their chances.

For once, the Dutchman was forthright with his opinion, stating, “Well football is about scoring goals and we did not do that. And thus, Afghanistan are the deserved winners.”

The biggest talking point of the night was Sunil Chhetri’s exclusion from the starting eleven, with the striker missing a clutch of opportunities after coming on. Koevermans though, was defiant about his selection, as he quipped, “Chhetri is not the only one who missed chances and we played a very good semi-final and there was no reason to make changes. Even before Chhetri came on, we missed a lot of chances.”

When asked what direction shall the national team take after this loss, he spoke of his disappintment given the fact that several of his players will not be playing regular football as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) have failed to resolve the issue between the I-League clubs and their commercial and marketing partners in IMG-Reliance. 

"We shall keep going, but the issue is players who don’t have a club. It’s a threat to the national team. What are they going to do now? They do not have any competitive training and for me it’s a big worry. I was hoping that by now there will be a solution for the players and now the window is gone and now I am facing a problem of a big group of players who shall hardly play competitive games and training.”

“An arrangement has to be reached regarding the players. I am a national team coach and if these players are not in a serious competition what can I expect from them,” the Indian national team coach continued.

However Koevermans still defended the performance of his players, as he said, “These players can play really good football and that is required at the international level. My players are doing well and we can develop at international level. But if they don’t play week in and week out, and without challenging sessions the level of play won’t improve.”

He continued to emphasize on the need for his players to play regularly while lauding the improvements made by Afghanistan. The Dutchman stated, “Afghanistan has improved. People have told me how their quality has improved. We all have to take step forwards, as everyone is doing so and development is important.”

“We play good teams at the international level and we have to make sure they keep developing, which is something under threat at the moment. I am hoping there is a quick solution for this, as the players need a competitive environment to stay at a high level as there is a difference between national league and international tournaments,” he concluded.

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