Former Indian football captain I.M.Vijayan today hailed the national team, which won the Nehru Cup international tournament, for their fearless display and “never-say-die attitude” against Cameroon in the summit clash here.
“I am really impressed by the never-say-die attitude of the players. They showed character and immense fighting spirit against a very good African side,” Vijayan, one of India’s greatest footballers, told PTI.
“The Cameroon players have the advantage physically but the Indians matched them in skill and ball passing. They also won the ball a lot from the opposition players. The young players were relentlessly running here and there all over the field. The new coach has done a great job,” he said.
India defeated Cameroon 7-6 via tie-breaker in the final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here last night to lift the Nehru Cup for the third time on the trot.
Vijayan, a dreaded striker in his playing days, praised captain Sunil Chhetri for leading from the front.
“Chhetri has gained in experience, he has played with the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia for long and he was excellent in the tournament. Especially in the second half of the final match, he was creating problems for the Cameroonians,” he said.
“Gouramangi Singh also played well in the defence and he gave India the lead with a fearless goal. He was not afraid of taking the lead in that situation which could have led to his injury. The Cameroon goalkeeper was injured in the tussle,” said Vijayan.
Vijayan said that possession football, which is being advocated by new Dutch coach Wim Koevermans, suited the Indian players.
“I am a fan of possession football. It also suits Indian players as we are shorter than other players. We played passing football during our times also. The current players also did the same in the final against Cameroon. I am impressed by their passing skills,” said Vijayan.
“I have not seen the new coach personally but I have heard he prefers possession football to long ball style. From the way the players showed in the final against Cameroon, I feel that the players were adapting well to the style the coach wants to play,” he added.
Chhetri has been part of the Indian side which has won three Nehru Cup titles, and Vijayan said he would serve the country for a long time.
“Chhetri is in the Bhaichung mould, always in the look out for goals and he has got the skills and he is good at heading also,” he said.
Vijayan, however, refused to compare players of different generation.
“I don’t want to compare a Chhetri with Bhaichung or any other past players. There were P K Banerjee, Krishanu Dey, Inder Singh, me, Bhaichung and so on. Indian football has moved ahead after the retirement of all these players. An individual player does not make a team.
“I am sure this current team will achieve success in future. India has the talent but we need to groom them from a young age and we need right guidance.”
Keywords: Nehru Cup international tournament