The Intercontinental Cup is being touted as the platform to fine-tune Indian National football team's performance before they fly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January to participate in the Asian Cup. They have been drawn along with hosts UAE, Bahrain and Thailand in the group stage of the marquee tournament of the continent.
The participating nations in the competitions are Kenya which is ranked 111th in the world. Chinese Taipei and New Zealand are placed further down at 121 and 133 respectively with India on the 97th position.
The opening game against Taipei saw India register a comfortable 5-0 win at the Mumbai Football Arena. The Blue Tigers were in sublime form with Sunil Chhetri scoring his third hat-trick in India colours.
However, it does not take away the fact that Taipei looked weaker any the weakest team in the I-League or the Indian Super League (ISL). There was next to no resistance every time India went forward as the score-line could have easily gone into double figures.
On the other hand, Thailand, who are drawn alongside India in Group A, chose to fix an international friendly against China in Bangkok on June 2.
Although The War Elephants suffered a 2-0 defeat to Marcelo Lippi’s side, coach Milovan Rajevac learnt a few important lessons.
"First of all I have to congratulations to China. They are the team who know how to win the game. Yes, I’m disappointed but it's good to see commitment from our players. We had many chance to score but we continue to miss them which is our problem. Fortunately, this was just friendly match and we still have time before the Asian Cup starts.
"It's true that we are concerned about the strikers because most Thai clubs use foreign players in this position. This is why it is hard for player development but it’s not an excuse, it's my job.”
The point is that India’s opponents in the group are playing teams who are placed higher in rankings and also in terms of quality. While a 5-0 score-line is certainly flattering to say the least, one must also take time to reflect whether the 90 minutes against Taipei helped in any sense.
It’s about time to start being more pragmatic and thoughtful on the oppositions picked to play against.