Confident India take on Maldives

A confident India will be tested by a young and talented Maldives when they meet at the Nehru Cup football tournament at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Saturday.

India, the defending champions but also the lowest-ranked side at the 168th, gave a good account of themselves against a higher-ranked Syria in the opening game. The Indians were a cohesive group, their midfield and defence putting up an impressive show. Captain Sunil Chhetri led from the front, giving India the lead in its 2-1 victory with a deft header.

What was most heartening was the way youngsters like Francisco Fernandes, Sanju Pradhan and Lenny Rodrigues worked their way in the field.

However, the Indians would be measured in their celebrations as they were up against a young Syrian side with most of its professional players playing for various international clubs. The two-time champions were also helped by heavy rain which made the ground slushy and passing difficult.

Maldives, on Thursday, got off to a 2-1 victory over Nepal and dominated them with their attacking game and pace. Both the goal scorers for the island nation -- Abdulla Asadhulla and Easa Ismail -- were debutants and even their best player Ali Ashfaq played a role in the first goal.

India’s Dutch coach Wim Koevermans, who was present at the Maldives-Nepal match, acknowledged his Saturday’s rivals to be a good team. “But we are also confident, especially after our victory over Syria,” he said.

“Syria was a higher-ranked side and we did well to win. We have noted the areas which need improvement. We are ready. The victory over Syria is history and we are now looking to take on Maldives. There are no injury issues.”

For India a victory will not only raise their stakes in the tournament but will also prepare them for tougher challenges ahead.

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