By: Nilanjan Dutta
AIFF Media Team
Results don’t always matter, the philosophy does. Despite the Nehru Cup being his first Tournament as India’s Coach, Wim Koevermans has stayed reluctant to adopt a ‘safety first’ attitude. “We need to keep ourselves updated and in tune with the trends in World Football,” he maintains.
“This is a new India,” quipped Maldives’ Coach Istvan Urbanyi after their loss to the hosts in their last match. “This is not the usual kick and run India we have known. They are playing passing football. There is a direction in their football,” he added.
There’s no denying that. In just around 17 days of practice, the boys had to make the transition from ‘Direct Football’ to more ‘Passing Football.’ And mind you, this being the Senior Team, it was tough. “The attitude of the boys has been so encouraging,” Koevermans turns to his wards.
The sense of bonding is seen to be believed among the boys. ‘New India,’ as Koevermans’ boys have already been labelled, nevertheless, are not willing to let complacency step in. “There’s no point in thinking about future matches. We face Nepal in the next match and a win will take us to the final. It’s perhaps, the most important match for us,” Syed Rahim Nabi, who was omnipresent against Maldives, informs.
“This Indian side is a stronger one that played in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu earlier this year. There are many young players in the side and they are physically strong. The players look to be sharper. Upfront, Sunil Chhetri also looks more aggressive,” Nepal’s coach Krishna Thapa says in one breath.
“The level of their performance is going up with every match. Against Maldives, India were too good. But that doesn’t mean Nepal can’t beat India. In fact, both the teams are of the same standard,” he quips further.
‘Adjustments,” Koevermans stresses in the Team Meeting. “You need to flexible on the field. We have tried various systems so far. You always need to make those adjustments. I will always keep on asking it from you,” he goes on. The boys listen. “You need to dominate and redominate.”
Against Maldives, finding the ‘spare man’ in the midfield stayed the priority. Winning the ‘second ball,’ also stayed the priority as did the ‘pressing.’ One sole formation stays taboo for the entire 90 minutes, we all know by now.
Sunil Chhetri has turned himself into the Pied Piper of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Hard to keep pace with him when he walks, there’s always a horde of fans following him almost everywhere. Seven matches on the trot he has been declared the Man-of-the-Match at the Nehru Stadium.
You search all over on the internet and you won’t find anyone bettering that. You can’t just blame the World Record holder if he carries a piece of the Stadium grass with him as his lucky charm or have put another piece on the trophy cabinet back home.
“I just give my best. That’s my duty and I just can’t shy away from it,” he utters.
But it just isn’t all about goals. Ask Robin Singh. The debutant came close to putting it past the line against Maldives, but he isn’t miffed. “It was my dream to play for India. If I carry out the instructions and improve, I will get more chances. The more the chances, the more will I get the opportunities to score,” he says. “Chhetri has been exceptional. It’s nice to play alongside him.”
‘Coach, don’t you think you are already in the Final?’ Koevermans was asked the other day in the post-match press conference. The wit and humour, besides his height which separates him from the rest, Koevermans’ reflexes were sharp. “You say it, I don’t,” he smiled as everyone in the room laughed. “Don’t quote me. I haven’t said it. No, we are not yet in the final,” he maintained.
‘Step by step, match by match,’ stays the mantra. The next 90 minutes will decide all of that.
August 28: INDIA VS NEPAL (7pm – Live on Neo Prime).
Live streaming Links for the match will be posted in the blog if possible,