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Indian football team at the 2006 Doha Asian Games: When India nearly missed out on participation

Amoy Ghoshal
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 27 Aug 2014, 22:19 IST
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Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was outstanding for India at the 2006 Asian Games

Sportskeeda continues this new series by looking back at India’s performance in the 2006 edition.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Sandip Nandy (Mahindra United), Subrata Pal (Mohun Bagan) and Subhasis Roy Chaudhary (Mahindra United)

Defenders: Surkumar Singh (Mahindra United), N.S. Manju (Mahindra United), Anupam Sarkar (East Bengal), Gouramangi Singh (Sporting Clube de Goa),  Habibur Rehman Mondal (Mohammedan Sporting) and Debabrata Roy (East Bengal)

Midfielders: Steven Dias (Mahindra United), Bungo Singh (Churchill Brothers), Subhash Chakraborty (Mohun Bagan), NP Pradeep (Mahindra United), Climax Lawrence (Dempo Sports Club) and Chandam Chitrasen (Churchill Brothers)

Forwards: Syed Rahim Nabi (East Bengal), Manjit Singh (Mahindra United), Sunil Chhetri (JCT), Bhaichung Bhutia (captain, Mohun Bagan) and Sushil Kumar Singh (Mohun Bagan)

Support staff: Bob Houghton (chief coach), Henry Stanley Rozario (assistant coach), Antonio Marcos Pacheco (goalkeeping coach), Manabendra Bhattacharya (doctor), Tapan Bhattacharya (physiotherapist) and Syed Nasir Ali (manager)

Overview

Just like in 2002, India had an English coach at the helm in the form of former European Cup runner-up Bob Houghton. Once again it was a U-23 squad with three overage players and the team prepared with a training camp in Dubai, where they also played some friendlies. However India’s participation was in serious doubt even a week before the tournament as the football team wasn’t included in the list of 25 disciplines cleared on a ‘full cost to government basis’. This was because they did not fulfil the government's criteria of a fourth-to-sixth place finish in the previous edition.

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However much to the relief of the players, the team was finally cleared on a ‘no cost to government basis’ just like the 1998 and 2002 editions. Since India participated in 2002, they didn’t have to play in the first round group stage. They were automatically in the final 24 where there were six groups of four teams with the group winners and two best second-placed teams progressing to the quarters. India were drawn alongside defending champions Iran, Hong Kong and Maldives.

First was up Hong Kong and India had to rely on their goalkeeper Sandip Nandy to stay in the game. A late strike from NP Pradeep looked to have given India the win but they conceded an equaliser in stoppage time. India were expected to beat neighbours Maldives in the next game but for long periods it looked like it would end all square. However winger Subhash Chakraborty came up with a later winner. India were in still contention for a quarter-final berth but didn’t have much of a chance against mighty Iran. However Sandip’s heroics limited Iran to only a 2-0 victory with both goals coming late in the second half. India finished third in the group and made another early exit.

Novy Kapadia’s Insight

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In the 2006 Doha Asian Games Sandip Nandy gave one the finest displays ever by an Indian goalkeeper in the history of the Asian Games. He was one of India’s three senior players, the others being skipper Bhaiching Bhutia and midfielder Climax Lawrence. It was Nandy’s brilliance which kept the margin of defeat respectable against mighty Iran in the concluding group match. He repeatedly foiled numerous Iranian attacks and kept the scoreline respectable. The Iranian players even applauded some of his saves and his remarkable positioning and anticipation.

Even the opening match against Hong Kong ended in a 1-1 draw due to Nandy’s brilliance otherwise Hong Kong would have scored more goals. In the next match talented left midfielder Subhas Chakraborty scored an 89th minute winner against Maldives.

India got eliminated from the group stage but FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was present at Doha, saw India’s games and was impressed. Sadly several of the promising U-23 players did not fulfil their potential and faded away. The careers of Subhas Chakraborty and Habibur Rehman Mondal got blighted because of injury and illness. Defenders NS Manju, Anupam Sarkar and highly-rated Debabrata Roy, midfielders Chitrasem Chandan Singh and Bungo Singh and forwards Manjit Singh and Sushil Kumar Singh never fulfilled the potential they displayed in this tournament.

Results

Round 2

Group Stage:

November 29 2006: India 1-1 Hong Kong – Indian scorer: NP Pradeep 89’

December 3 2006: India 2-1 Maldives – Indian scorers: Surkumar Singh 34’, Subhash Chakraborty 89’

December 6 2006: India 0-2 Iran

Final position: Eliminated from the group stage

Published 27 Aug 2014, 22:15 IST
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