Intercontinental Cup 2019: DPR Korea, Tajikistan, Syria cite it as perfect World Cup Qualifiers preparation
India will host the second edition of Intercontinental Cup in Ahmedabad as the Blue Tigers square off against three Asian teams to defend their title. While the new India team under Igor Stimac will be more focussed on giving exposure to new players, the teams of Tajikistan, Syria, and DPR Korea have cited it as perfect preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers.
DPR Korea's head coach Yun Jong-Su rued the fact that he couldn't call those players plying their trade in Europe as the Intercontinental Cup is being held outside the FIFA friendly window. However, he sees this as a huge opportunity for youngsters to prove their mettle.
"This intercontinental cup is very important because this is being played just before the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, which is to begin in September. So, these are going to be good preparation matches for our team."
The Tajikistan head coach Fajer Ebrahim resonated with his North Korean counterpart. The team just drew with Afghanistan and lost narrowly to China and sees the matches in Intercontinental Cup as equally important.
"It is a great opportunity for us to continue our preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers. We have a new team and these are great conditions to prepare for our next stage."
Tajikistan have 11 of their 21 players coming from the same team, FC Istiklol. No other country has such a high representative from the same club and the team believes this could be the cutting edge for them.
It's a good advantage for us that eleven players play for the same football club. In Tajikistan, FC Istiklol is the best football club. So, most of the players either play for them or like to play for them in the future as they have the best financial conditions. Most of the players are from their club because they are the best.
While this would be the first outing in India for the head coaches of DPR Korea and Tajikistan, Syria's Usmon Toshev arrived here thrice before when India hosted the Nehru Cup.
He, too, has to be content with only domestic players owing to the tournament being held outside the FIFA international window, but sees it as a huge opportunity for the local players.
"This type of tournament is important to give chances to players to perform in international levels. A lot of Syrian players play outside but now we brought all local players. It's good chance for them to play this tournament and after that we can select them for national team."
One thing which Syria's coach admits is that the standard of the game in Asian football has risen considerably. Teams from other confederation can no longer take them lightly.
"The Asian countries have improved a lot. I saw India in the last Asian Cup. They were great. All the Asian teams performed very well."