Coach Sukhwinder expresses confidence

 
At the insistence of national coach Bob Houghton, the 20-member Indian squad for the SAFF Cup has just one senior international in Sushil Kumar Singh, who rarely gets into in starting line-up, but Sukhwinder is satisfied.

“The 2011 AFC Asian Cup is the main aim and doing well there will have a great impact for the game in the country. So we are fielding an under-23 side but don’t think that we cannot do well in Bangladesh.

We would be as good as any other team,” Sukhwinder told PTI from Goa before leaving for Dhaka.

“True, the players I am taking have little international exposure but they have been playing in I-League along with the senior internationals. SAFF Cup has always been a tough tournament but we have a very good squad,” he said.

Sukhwinder, who was the coach when India won the regional tournament at home in 1999, said it was good idea of Houghton to field a development side in SAFF Cup, considering that the same will happen in the AFC Challenge Cup in February next year in Sri Lanka and then the 2010 Asian Games in China.

“In a way it is good that we are fielding an under-23 side in SAFF Cup because we need a development side. We are also fielding under-23 sides in the AFC Challenge Cup and the Asian Games,” he said.

‘Good preparation’

“We had a very good preparation in Goa. These boys have not got much chance to play international matches. They are raring to go. Besides bringing laurels for the country they have the chance to graduate to the senior side,” he said.

India lost to Maldives in the 2008 SAFF Cup final in Sri Lanka and coach Houghton got the flak from various quarters.

Sukhwinder said he was aware of and said it will be a tough tournament but he refused who would be India’s toughest rivals.

“In modern football there are no favourites or underdogs. Any side of comparable standard can beat any other on a given day. I have a very good squad who can give the results,” he said.

India play Afghanistan on December 5 in their opening Group A match, before taking on Nepal (December 7) and Maldives (December 9).

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