Confident India look to seal final spot

Football Nehru Cup: After two successive wins, hosts face lowly Nepal

The Indian football team is brimming with confidence. Two back-to-back victories against higher-ranked opponents in the Nehru Cup reflect the new-found confidence.

The youngsters have added fresh a flavour while seniors like Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda and Gaurmangi Singh have led by example.

That combination, which has served them well thus far, will once again come to their aid when they run into Nepal on Tuesday.

In the absence of stalwarts like Bhaichung Bhutia, Deepak Mondal, Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli, there were gaps to be filled and the team has done it effectively in their matches against Syria and Maldives. It is early to soothsay their future but there is no doubt that they are on the right path.

Coach Wim Koevermans is only two international matches old but he is making the Indians do what the world has been using and benefitting from for ages. Ball possession, aggressive tackles and quick passing have been the key to success in modern football, and Koevermans has been clear in instilling this in his boys.

For the youngsters, taking to the strategies of the new coach may not be a difficult proposition, but for the seniors it is more about adapting. Skipper Sunil Chhetri repeatedly stressed on this during pre-tournament interviews.

Among the seniors, Nabi and Miranda have shown the readiness to embrace the change.

Their tireless work in the mid-field has been chiefly the reason that made goal-scoring look so easy for India.

The defence, that has been India’s bane for years, has looked smarter and goalkeeper Subrata Paul has lent confidence under the bar. Chhetri, supported by Franscisco Fernandes, has looked in good touch.

Nabi, particularly, has been the most versatile. Not only does he efficiently move the ball in the mid-field, he has also emerged as an attacking defender and even goal-scorer.  Koevermans acknowledged him to be a ‘revelation’ after their 3-0 victory over Maldives.

“A win will take us to the final. It’s perhaps, the most important match for us,” Nabi said.

Nepal are desperate to log their first point in the tournament after losing both their matches.

After their 5-0 hammering at the hands of Cameroon on Sunday, Nepal are eyeing their clash against India for a breakthrough.

“This Indian side is a stronger than the one that played in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu earlier this year.

“There are many young players in the side. Upfront, Sunil Chhetri also looks more aggressive,” said Nepal coach Krishna Thapa.

Koevermens believes in going step by step. A win on Tuesday will take them a step closer to their destination.

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