The discussions over the last few days since India's loss against tiny Guam on Tuesday have grown by the day and a lot of points where mentioned amongst them that India needs to play more international friendlies to better prepare the national team and give the inexperienced squad more of international football.
But there I then have a few questions. When do you play? Who do you play? And do you play for the sake of playing friendlies?
Let me try and answer the above questions. What a lot of people don't know is that FIFA has become much stricter than in the past about playing official 'A' international matches. FIFA prefer nations playing only matches on official FIFA match dates in March, June, September, October and November.
Outside of Europe a lot of friendlies used to be scheduled whenever two federations wanted to play, but that is something which the world governing body doesn't really want, so it makes the task of the AIFF more difficult to organise such matches against quality opposition.
What India's aim should be
Add to that, after the losses to Oman and Guam, India surely isn't amongst the Crème de la Crème of Asian football, so it again isn't an easy task for the AIFF to organise matches against better and stronger opposition. Then there is the question who India should play, as just playing friendlies for the sake of it like under ex-coach Wim Koevermans doesn't really work for Team India with two/three days of preparations going into such games.
Looking ahead to the match against Iran on September 8 in Bangalore, India should look for an opponent from the Middle East to play who have a similar style of play to Iran, but most of the possible opponents have their own qualification matches on September 3, on which date India is free due to no own qualifier in Group D.
Then again my earlier question comes up if India should play against any team just to have practice match? If you answer this with yes, then the second question comes in, do you play against a weaker side to give the team some confidence or do you want a tough opponent to prepare for the match against the Iranians?
If I am left to choose, then I would go for a weaker opponent and allow the young team to settle down and take some much-needed match confidence into the Iran game. But again in the end I want to reiterate the point that it isn't an easy task for the AIFF as many just think.