New Delhi: Back at their happy hunting
ground, India would look to make amends of their solitary goal
loss to Thailand last week when they take on the same
opponents in their second international match in the build-up
to next year`s AFC Asian Cup in Qatar here on Wednesday.
Bob Houghton`s side lost 0-1 to a Thailand side which was
a mix of senior and Under-23 players in Bangkok on Saturday
and the home side would now seek to make it even stevens at
Ambedkar Stadium, their happy hunting ground, in their second
international friendly of the year.
Thailand are 34 places above India at 104th at FIFA
rankings having played more international matches than their
tomorrow`s opponents but their caoch Bob Robson admitted that
it would be a tight match tomorrow considering that he is
fielding a mix of senior and Under 23 players again as he is
building a team for the November Asian Games.
Houghton and his boys would be happy that they have
returned to their favourite ground where they have won three
international titles -- two back-to-back Nehru Cup triumphs in
2007 and 2009 and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 which ensured
them an AFC Asian Cup qualification after 26 years.
The fullhouse crowd in the final of the three
international tournaments had prompted Houghton to declare
that India could beat any Asian side other than Australia,
Japan or South Korea at Ambedkar Stadium.
The football lovers of the country`s capital though will
miss captain and star striker Bhaichung Bhutia who is still
not fully fit.
Bhaichung, who did not play in Bangkok, is unlikely to
play in the next two matches here -- against Namibia on
September 15 and against Gambia on September 19 -- if words of
Houghton is any indication.
Asked if Bhaichung can play by September 19, Houghton
said, "We have to see, he is trying to be match fit. He is not
playing tomorrow for sure. But surely he will play a role in
the AFC Asian Cup in January."
Despite the loss in Bangkok, the Indians would go into
tomorrow`s match with a positive frame of mind as that match
was more of an even contest though Thailand had more ball
India gave the Thais a lot of trouble in the second half
though they conceded the decisive goal in the 73rd minute.
"We had a very good match in Bangkok. We had some very
good chances. We had lot of positives considering we were
playing our first international match after the Portugal
tour," Houghton said at a pre-match press conference.
"Anthony Pereira, (Sunil) Chhetri, the two centre backs
(Anwar Ali and Gourmangi Singh and goalkeeper Subrata Paul had
a good game," he added.
One area which Houghton would look to improve would be
the central midfield from where Climax Lawrence, who wore the
captain`s armband in the absence of unfit Bhaichung Bhutia,
and N P Pradeep operate.
The duo could not do much in Bangkok and failed to feed
the strike pair of Sunil Chhetri and debutante Mohammed Rafi.
Climax, who will also lead the side tomorrow, and Pradeep
were later replaced by Renedy Singh and Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
Renedy though is ruled out of tomorrow`s match with a
Houghton is unlikely to make many changes in the starting
line-up of the last match with the goalkeeper Subrata Paul,
who had a brilliant game in Bangkok, certain to man the Indian
goal. Striker Chhetri is a certain starter and so is his
The only likely change could be that of the left-back
position with Houghton having the option to bring back N S
Manju in place of veteran Mahesh Gawli.
Pradeep was also far from impressive in Bangkok but
Houghton is still likely to start with him tomorrow at the
centre of the park along with Climax. Livewire Anthony Pereira
and Steven Dias, both nimble footed, would be at right and
Thailand though will be fielding just five players from
the senior side and their 19-member squad here have just six
of the 17 players fielded in Bangkok.
"We are basically building a side for the Asian Games. So
what I am doing is to field only five or six of my first team
in the two international friendlies against India. So I have
only five players above 23," he said.
Star striker Sarayoot Chaikumdee, who scored the winning
goal, has been left out as well as key midfielder Datsakorn
Thonglao and defender Panupong Wongsa who captained the side
But Robson has brought senior side captain and defender
Nattaporn Pharnit who did not play in Bangkok. Number one
goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan who also did not take field in
Bangkok is also here and he is likely to play tomorrow.
"It will be a tough match tomorrow and the side which
converts the chances which come their way will win," said
Robson, former England and Manchester United captain.