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India vs Chinese Taipei
AFC Challenge Cup Qualifier Group-B
MBPJ Stadium, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
March 21, 5PM IST

Still riding high with their good show in the AFC Asian Cup, the Indian National Team will for the first time go through the qualification round of the AFC challenge Cup. It was this Challenge Cup triumph in 2008 that booked India a place in Asia’s premier football tournament – The AFC Asian Cup 2011 in Doha. So the importance of qualifying for the main draw of the tournament is better understood by none other than India.

Set to kick off their campaign at the MBPJ Stadium, Petaling Jaya in Malaysia on Monday, the young national team will face Chinese Taipei.  India had last met Chinese Taipei at home in 2008 in International friendlies. India won the first game 3-0 in Goa, while the second match in Chennai ended in a 2-2 draw.

Bob Houghton’s team is a mix of youth and experience considering the absence of much fancied international striker Bhaichung Bhutia and some senior pros. However team India still holds competitive edge over their opponents because of the international exposure they got in recent times.

Moreover with youngsters like Jeje, Jewel and Sabeeth coming in, it will give the team the much needed pace and aggression while the experience players like Gouramangi , Chhetri and Subrata will steer the team with their cool and candid approach.

“This is an experimental structure as we want to give chance to some youngsters who did not feature in the AFC Asian Cup squad said Indian Coach Bob Houghton.

“We did not have preparations for the qualifiers because the players played an Indian League game on March 13 and many were part of Dempo and East Bengal squads who played the AFC Cup group games away on March 15 and 16.

Meanwhile Chinese Taipei, who made it to the group stage of the qualifier after beating Laos 6-3 on aggregate reached the last eight of this competition in 2006 but failed to qualify for the last two editions,. Despite the presence of two former Champions in their group, Chih-Tsung Lo’s coached side might still spring some surprises as they are rank just a notch below India in the FIFA ranking.

However, Chinese Taipei coach Lo Chih-Tsung, who is likely to field his full strength tomorrow, does not consider his team as favourites.

“It’s a chance for our youngsters to gain some international exposure. Most of the players are 22-23 year old students. We are training since last three months,” he said.

Drawn in group B with last editions Runner’s Up Turkmenistan, Chinese Taipei and all time biggest rival in every game – Pakistan, India at 145 has the better FIFA ranking among them all. Moreover playing the first two games against a weaker side before playing Turkmenistan is an added advantage – which will play in their hands.

So it’s quite expected that India will finish in the top two to qualify and use the tournament in 2012 as a stepping stone to be among the elites in the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Hope by then our Bhangra Boys will pose tougher challenges for the likes of Ji Dong-Won and Robbie Kruse.

India will next play Pakistan on March 23 and Turkmenistan on March 25.

Indian squad (From):
Goalkeepers:
Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh, Jagroop Singh.
Defenders: Denzil Franco, Gourmangi Singh , Anwar , Mohan Raj, Nirmal Chhetri , Syed Rahim Nabi, Govin Singh, N.S.Manju and Raju Gaikwad.
Midfielders: Steven Dias, Joaquim Abranches, Baldip Singh, Jagpreet Singh, Rakesh Masih, Jewel Raja and Shilton D’Silva.
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri (Captain), Sushil Singh, CS Sabeeth and Jeje Lalpekhulua.

Chinese Taipei Team:
Goalkeepers:
Kuang-Tien Chung, Chih-Hsin Tsai, Po-Cheng Lin
Defenders:
Shan-Fu Chen,Yung-Hsien Chang, Cheng-Yi Lin, Yu-Lin Chen, Yi-Wei Chen, Chao-Hsun Yang
Mid fielders: Hsien-Tang Tsai, Che-Yuan chan, Chih-An Lo, Po-Liang Chen (Captain), Ming-Han Chiang, Kai-Chun Hung, Chi-Chao Liu, Cheng-Tsung Huang, Tzu-Jung Huang, Wu Pai-Ho.
Strikers:
Han Chang, Chih-En Lo, Chun-Ching Wu, Chen Po-Hao.