The Wim Koevermans school of football is set to face another test when India plays Maldives in the Nehru Cup on Saturday. The facile win against Syria in the opener did set the tone and it is for Sunil Chhetri and his men to now take the game a notch higher.

Koevermans advocates total football where ball control and possession becomes paramount. He also believes in looking ahead and making positive inroads. When he says, “Past is past,” he underlines the need to stay focused.

“The match against Sryia is past at the moment,” he means business. “If you think about Syria, you will stumble. Maldives boasts of some good players who can make a difference,” he said.

There is no room for complacency because the job has just begun. Syria failed to adapt to the slushy turf after rain lashed the stadium and a dry field, assuming it does not rain, would present a different challenge on Saturday. Keeping pace with Maldives would require an all-round effort from the Indians.

The Maldives coach, Istvan Urbanyi, is practical.

“It’s impossible to comment on India at the moment. Rain played a major role in India’s first match. So I just can’t draw any comparison between this Indian side and the former ones,” he observed.

Maldives tamed Nepal in its opener with captain Ali Ashfaq dominating the contest. His tactical play stood out and Nepal was mostly catching the shadows of this brilliant player.

For Urbanyi, the fitness level of his players could be a worry.

“Most of my players observed Ramadan and hence, I’m worried a bit about their fitness levels.

“But at the same time, you need to remember both my debutants scored against Nepal. Abdullah Asadullah is just 22 and Easa Ismail is a super talent.”

The Indians are not taking Maldives lightly. Syed Rahim Nabi insists, “Maldives is a different match”.

For goalkeeper Subrata Paul, the match against Maldives means greater effort on the field. “We are taking one match at a time. The victory against Syria is a thing of the past. When we take the field, the fact that we won against Syria won’t guarantee us a win against Maldives. There’s still a long way to go in the tournament. The brand of football on display against Sryia was not our best and we are yet to play to our potential.”

Quality stuff

But the brand of football that Cameroon and Syria produced on Friday evening in a 2-2 draw was ominous. It was quality stuff all the way from the time Cameroon, which led twice, scored from a thunderous header by Kingue Mpondo in the 27th minute before Alaa Alshbbli returned the compliment with a dexterous header at the stroke of half time. On resumption, Ebanga Bertin scored from a penalty in the 55th but Syria hit back through a stunning volley 24 minutes later by Ouday Abduljaffal.

The result: Cameroon 2 (Mpondo 27, Bertin 55) drew with Syria 2 (Alshbbli 42, Abduljaffal 79).

Saturday’s fixture: India v Maldives, 7 p.m.

Keywords: Nehru Cup

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