BY AYUSH SRIVASTAVA Follow @ayush_sri on twitter
Lenny Rodrigues has been one of the fixtures in the side, since Wim Koevermans took over the reigns. He was instrumental in the semi-final against Maldives, as the Blue Tigers shrugged away the tag of the underdogs to win the game.
Having been left out of the starting line-up once in the group stages, the Churchill Brothers’ player forced his way back into the reckoning with a good performance against the Red Snappers. Giving his views on the display, he commented, “I was happy with my performance. I was asked to do a role in front of the back four and thankfully I managed to do it well. We have had some good performances under him (Koevermans) but against Maldives was one of the best for sure.”
While the win in the Nehru Cup on home soil had raised hopes of a revival in Indian fortunes, the subsequent lean period has shown that the team is still in transition.
Though India is a two-time defending SAFF champion, Lenny thinks that retaining the title will be a bigger achievement than winning the Nehru Cup in Koevermans’ first assignment. He opined, “Yes, I think this trophy will be a bigger achievement if we manage to win it. We have worked very hard to be in the final, so hopefully we can give one more big performance and retain the trophy. It will be extra special for me as I wasn’t part of the 2011 SAFF team.”
While the matches presently are being played on natural grass surface, India’s training was held on an artificial pitch, which the midfielder admitted had been a hindrance. He stated, “It wasn’t easy for us initially in the tournament because we had to get used to the weather and the grounds here because before the tournament we trained on an artificial pitch. The performance and result in the semi-final has given us more confidence for the final.”
It must be noted that Goal had questioned Koevermans on preferring to train on an artificial surface ahead of the competition to which his response was that they had done so prior to the Nehru Cup as well which they won.
Though the Afghanistan assistant coach had commented that India were inferior physically and technically to India, Lenny himself refused to be drawn on the subject, but stated that FIFA rankings would matter for nothing, once the two teams enter the fray.
“Afghanistan are a good side and deserve to be in the final. They have some good players including Balal (Arezou), who is my former teammate of course,” Lenny concluded.
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