AFC Challenge Cup 2012: Can India do it again?

Can India repeat the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 Success?

Can India do it again? Yes, we are talking of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012, the same tournament which made it possible for India to take part in the prestigious AFC Asia Cup in 2011, Qatar after a gap of 26 years. Being grouped with Tajikistan, DPR Korea and Philippins, India face a very tough job of qualifying from the group. Defending champions DPR Korea who played in the FIFA World Cup 2010 will be the favourites to lift the title again. Tajikistan and Phillipines are certainly no pushovers in the group.

Indian team as of now could be termed as a "Young" team, specially considering the new names in the squad with the likes of Adil Khan, Francis Fernandes, Jewel Raja, Raju Gaikwad. The youth blood of Blue-Tigers did not have the best outings in recent times as they faced heavy defeats in the two international friendlies prior to the tournament against Oman and Azerbaizan. Few names still remain in the squad which were a part of the historical triumph of the AFC Challenge Cup back in 2008 when India booked their birth for Asia Cup 2011 after defeating Tajakistan in the finals, and one such name is none other than the poster boy of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri. Being rewarded with the captain's armband, Sunil Chhetri will be looking to repeat such performances again.

The ex-Sporting Kansas forward had a tough time recovering from his injury suffered during India's SAFF Championship glory, which kept him out for quite some time. He will lead the front line along with Joaquim Abhranches. The midfield boasts of fresh faces with Jewel Raja and Adil Khan expected to be the supply line for the forwards, Francis Fernandes will be a player to watch in the left half of the midfield along with Lalrindika Ralte. Syed Rahim Nabi might also be given the role of playing up on the midfield and thus utilize his versatility. The major concern will be the defense line as it looked out of ideas against Oman as well as against Azerbaizan. A lot of burden will be on Gourmangi Singh to keep the opponent forwards in check. It will be interesting to see who will accompany him in the defense. Raju Gaikwad or Anwar Ali might take up that role as Arnab Mondal, who has been very consistent for Prayag United is out due to injury. Anwar Ali's lack of speed was clearly visible in the friendlies that the team played earlier.

"We have been drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ and can’t afford to take any of the teams lightly. Every match is a new match and we need to take one match at a time. We need to play as a cohesive unit against Tajikistan." Indian captain Sunil Chhetri told.

Indian vice captain was quite optimistic regarding his teams chances of winning the title as he was quoted saying, "We have a fairly good chance to win the title." Regarding India's first opponent Tajikistan, Nabi says, "I think we have a psychological advantage against them as we defeated them in final in Delhi. But nothing can be taken for granted. We need to be cautious as we have been drawn in a very tough group."

All in all, it will be one hell of a tough job to clinch the title this time around with most of the nations leapfrogging India in terms of development they have made since the last edition. Nevertheless, with the injection of youth blood India have will have the freshness and a victory early on against Tajikistan will do wonders in terms of confidence.

India'a Fixture for AFC Challenge Cup 2012:

  9th March: India vs Tajikistan    (Dasrath Stadium)
11th March: India vs Philippines   (Dasrath Stadium)
13th March: India vs DPR Korea (Dasrath Stadium) 
Share on Google Plus

About Debraj Banerjee

Hi, I am Debraj Banerjee from Adra, West Bengal. A keen follower of Indian football and always an optimist that the game will get the recognition it truely deserves. What we ask from you is your support and one day the dream might turn true. Fingers crossed for Indian football. Cheers!

Follow Me on Twitter Debraj Banerjee
Post a Comment