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2012 AFC Challenge Cup: India start their campaign against Tajikistan

Team India start their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup campaign tomorrow with a match-up between former champions as the Bhangra Boys face Tajikistan in their Group B opener at the Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu.Team India will have fond memories about the last me...

Team India start their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup campaign today with a match-up between former champions the Blue Tigers face Tajikistan in their Group B opener at the Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu.

Team India will have fond memories about the last meeting of the two sides, when it was in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in New Delhi which India won in emphatic fashion, a 4-1 drubbing with Sunil Chhetri scored a hattrick and India qualifying for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. A repeat would be the perfect start as India should go into the match with a psychological advantage.

India coach Savio Medeira said, “The team is raring to go against Tajikistan. All the boys are charged up for the match. I am confident they will come out with their best for the clash and we will be able to secure all the points.”

“We will fight till the last second of the match. We would not give any chance to our rivals,” Savio confidently added.

Captain Sunil Chhetri spoke on the sidelines of the practice session, “We have come over here with only one objective and that is to win at any cost. We won’t leave any stone unturned to achieve our goal. All the players including me would try to repeat our performance of the SAFF Championship.”

And Sunil Chhetri’s confidence is something which can be seen across the squad, which is waiting for the start of the tournament.

Savio Medeira is likely to stay away from any experiments with his team. Karanjit Singh will start as number one in goal with Samir Naik, Gouramangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad and Syed Rahim Nabi in defence; the midfield will be made-up of Anthony Pereira, Adil Khan, Rocus Lamare and Francis Fernandes; while upfront Sunil Chhetri will be joined by Sushil Kumar Singh. Some are surprised that Nirmal Chetri, Lalrindika Ralte and Joaquim Abranches look unlikely to get a start.

The Tajiks meanwhile also have come with the aim to get as far as possible and get a good start against India. Tajikistan is currently 145th in the FIFA world rankings, 13 places ahead of India, with their top star being Yusuf Rabiev.

The kick-off is slated for 17.00 local time (16.45 IST) with the match to be telecast only on Kolkata TV in India. There will be no national broadcast.

Published with permission from Arunava Chaudhuri.

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