Nepal is wary of the vigorous force that India has emerged in its two matches of the Nehru Cup. Wins against Syria and Maldives have shown the home team in the best frame of mind to do justice to the coaching methods of Wim Koevermans.
“We need to keep ourselves updated and be in tune with the trends in world football,” Koevermans insists. The players understand him well and are willing to adapt even if it means growing demands on their endurance.
Maldives coach Istvan Urbanyi was right when he said, “This is a new India.” The style and attitude have changed. The onus is on attack, keeping possession and backing one another. It is best exemplified in the quick response to a challenge.
Nepal coach Krishna Thapa sums it up well, “This Indian side is stronger than the one that played the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu. There are several strong, young players in the side now. They look sharper. Upfront, (Sunil) Chhetri also looks more aggressive. The performance level is going up with every match. Against Maldives, India was too good. But that doesn’t mean Nepal can’t beat India.”
India is taking it step by step as advocated by Koevermans. “There’s no point in thinking about future matches. We face Nepal in the next match and a win will take us to the final,” says Syed Rahim Nabi, who has had a fine tournament thus far.
Chhetri is realistic of his role. “I just give my best, that’s my duty.” His mates share the responsibility and look at Nepal as a worthy opponent despite the latter’s dismal run so far.
As Mehtab Hossain notes, “The Nepalese are very quick. They play short passes and build up fast. Against Maldives, though they lost, they fought really well.”
Nepal will not be a pushover. The team has not clicked in any department. To win against India would be the motivation. A dry turf can produce a close contest.
Rasheed is Maldives’ hero
Meanwhile on Monday, in a match delayed by rain, Maldives beat Syria 2-1, which needed a win to stay in the hunt.
Ali Ashfaq put Maldives ahead in the 59th minute before Alaa Alshbbli equalised with a reverse kick 21 minutes later. Ahmed Rasheed struck in injury time to swing the match Maldives's way.
Syria now has two points with a match in hand and Maldives has six with a match in hand too.
The results: Maldives 2 (Ali Ashfaq 59, Ahmed Rasheed 90+3) bt Syria 1 (Alaa Alshbbli 80).
Tuesday’s fixture: India vs. Nepal, 7 p.m.
Keywords: Nehru Cup football tournament