Lessons to be Learnt For Chhetri & Co After AFC Asian Cup Exit
With Constantine no more at helm, the heads at All India Football Federation do have a big task in their hand.
The year started on a great note for the Indian football fans. Not only was India participating in the AFC Asian Cup after a span of eight years, a 4-1 thumping of Thailand in their opening encounter, set the tone for the fans of the ‘Blue Tigers.’ But eight days later a solitary goal by Bahrain in the stoppage time made sure the party got over before it started
Despite two loses in the tournament, the ‘Blue Fans’ believe they have no reason to feel blue. The revolution has just started and few tweaks here and there, India might give their fans more reasons to celebrate.
Out of the 270 minutes India played in the competition, they looked out of place only for 45 minutes and unfortunately, they had to learn it the hard way that in international football, you just can’t switch off yourself even for a minute.
It is true that the team has come a long way since the last time India played at the continental level, but fitness is still a matter of concern. Playing 3 games in 10 days, was never going to be easy, as mentioned by players from the current squad. In the domestic leagues, they have been doing this for the last three years, but the international level is a different ball game. Despite being the fittest group of footballers in the country when compared with the past players, the Blue Tigers need to reach a greater level of fitness to match the greatest of Asia.
One way of addressing this issue is by giving these players more international exposure. India in 2018 played Kyrgyzstan, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Jordan, China and Oman. Apart from Kyrgyzstan, China and Oman India hardly faced any quality opposition.
Optimum utilisation of international breaks should be the mantra for the Indian team. They surely must do better than eight games a year, which they played in 2018.
The more the team rubs shoulder with teams like UAE, China the better it will be for them as it will help them to get acclimatised with the international standard.
More international friendlies will not only take care of the fitness side of the game but will also lend India better tactical knowledge.
The second half against Bahrain exposed India’s Achilles Heel. The side was simply unable to keep the ball in the second half. The side must understand that the need of the hour is a possession-based game. Unable to finish better just added to the woes of the side.
With Constantine no more at the helm, the heads at All India Football Federation (AIFF) do have a big task at hand. Assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh has been given the job for the time being but surely the name of a permanent candidate will emerge soon.
But the thing that should be kept in mind is that in no way there should be a repeat of 2011, after Englishman Bob Houghton. Whatever may be said about Constantine’s tactical approach, we should always be grateful to him for making sure that his successor has core group of talented players who will be there for few more years.
With Chhetri most probably playing his last major international tournament for India, a lot would depend on the likes of Sandeep Jhingan, Udanta, Pronay Halder and Jeje to take it from here. The new coach has to make sure he doesn’t try to experiment to much with this bunch.
This has been said many times before previous editions of the World Cup but with eight AFC countries in contention for qualification for the 2026 World Cup, India should fancy their chances this time around but again conditions apply. As far as AFC Asian Cup is concerned, the kind of progress India has made they should now try to be part of every edition.
India’s next big international assignment will be the 2022 FIFA World Cup – 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers which will be held in June this year. India may not play the first round of the tournament since India are currently ranked in the top 15 in Asia. But we have to wait till February 2019, because the draw will take into consideration the February 2019 rankings. The second round qualifiers begin from September 2019.
But first job in hand – hire a new coach!
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