Tuesday’s international friendly against Nepal in Siliguri will be India’s last match of 2013. India’s record in this calendar year reads – Played: 11, Won: 4, Lost: 5, Drawn: 2. Clearly, the numbers could have been better but even more importantly India failed to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup which ended their hopes of playing in the 2015 Asian Cup.
The failure to retain the SAFF Championship was another disappointment and in a media interaction on Saturday, India coach Wim Koevermans admitted that the team couldn’t achieve two of its main targets but still has a few positives to take from this calendar year.
“Well there is no denying that we failed to achieve a couple of our objectives. Of course the most important was qualifying for the AFC Challenge Cup. Qualification was in our hands but we just couldn’t take our chances so that was a bit disappointing.
“But even though we couldn’t qualify and also didn’t win the SAFF Championship, I feel most of our performances were good and we did play some good football. We played a lot of matches and used many players so I do have a bigger pool for the national team now. That is a very good sign going into next year,” Koevermans stated.
The Dutchman added that the plan ahead is to keep playing regular international friendlies, preferably against stronger opposition.
“I am happy with the number of matches we played this year and next year too I want us to get more international exposure. It is important to play good teams like the Philippines because that helps us improve. We have to plan carefully and utilise as many FIFA dates as possible. At the same time the I-League also needs to be improved,” the 53-year-old opined.
India have played four international friendlies since Koevermans was appointed in July 2012 and the draw against Philippines was the first time that they avoided defeat. The former Netherlands coach isn’t losing any sleep over that statistic and reminded that India have always faced higher-ranked teams in those friendlies.
“It’s true that we haven’t won any of the friendlies but in each of those games we took on tough opposition. Singapore, Palestine and Tajikistan are all good sides and yesterday too we faced a strong Philippines team. I would have been concerned if we didn’t compete in those games but we actually created plenty of chances against strong teams,” the Euro 1988 winner recalled.
One of the major recent talking points surrounding the Indian national team has been the exclusion of several experienced players from the squad as they were without an I-League club. Some of those IMG-Reliance contracted players are now set to play in the I-League again and Koevermans was happy to hear that.
“Look for me it was always about the players. I was feeling sorry for them and told them that this deadlock was a big threat to the national team. If you are not in competitive action for months, you cannot play at international level. I am happy that finally there seems to be a solution as some clubs are finally signing those IMG-Reliance players,” he concluded.