Football

India looks to iron out flaws

HOPING TO COME GOOD AGAIN: Coach WimKoevermans (right) will want the Indian team tocome up with an improved performance in thesecond friendly against Pakistan on Wednesday. PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR

HOPING TO COME GOOD AGAIN: Coach WimKoevermans (right) will want the Indian team tocome up with an improved performance in thesecond friendly against Pakistan on Wednesday. PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR  

more-in

Having scraped past Pakistan on Sunday, India will be acutely aware of the need for improvement before the second and final friendly match of this U-23 series.

Sunil Chhetri’s scrambled finish from a corner handed India victory, but it did not mask the team’s inadequacies. For the first half hour, there was little service to the strikers; the quality of the final ball, Wim Koevermans admitted, had been poor. Then as the clock ticked down, Pakistan came alarmingly close and could easily have scored a couple of goals.

“We still have to fine-tune a few things so I’m glad we have the game tomorrow to do that,” the national coach said. “That’s why we play these games.”

Koevermans, though, has a bigger problem on his hand ahead of Wednesday’s tie at the Bangalore Football Stadium. Robin Singh, whose physical presence had considerably bothered the Pakistan defenders, will be unavailable following his red card. “I’m not going to tell you (who will take his place),” the Dutchman said. “It’s a surprise.”

The closest the squad has to a direct replacement for Robin is the tall Thongkhosiem Haokip. The 20-year-old striker, a graduate of the Pune FC academy, featured on the tour to the Czech Republic and could play some part here. Equally likely, though, is a change in system. Alwyn George, who did not play the first match, could be deployed as a number 10, with Chhetri ahead of him.

Rare commodity

The situation illustrates, though, that strikers are a rare commodity in India. “The development of strikers in India is not great because the boys hardly play top-quality competitions,” Koevermans rued. “If they’re young and in an I-League team, they sit on the bench. So how can we blame them?”

With the Asian Games less than a month away, the coach more or less knows what his starting eleven will be in Incheon. The midfielder Pronoy Halder, one of those who look certain of a place, was confident of success over Pakistan. “Of course there is scope for improvement, but we are good enough to win,” he said.

Pakistan, for its part, will be keen to work on its finishing. Kaleem Ullah, the captain, and Mansoor Khan had great chances but were unable to convert them. Till that point, however, the skipper and the central midfielder Saddam Hussain had been one of the better players on the pitch.

“We won’t repeat our mistakes from the first match,” Kaleem said. “We will play to win. We will attack India’s weaknesses.”

The atmosphere is guaranteed to be electric again; it is only hoped the football will live up to expectations.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics Sport Football
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 9:43:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/india-looks-to-iron-out-flaws-before-final-friendly-match-of-u23-football-series-against-pakistan/article6332402.ece

Next Story