New Delhi: India Under-23 football coach
Sukhwinder Singh sees the AFC Challenge Cup commencing in
Colombo from February 16 as an opportunity to measure strength
with North Korea who have qualified for the World Cup in South
North Korea are looking to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup
by winning the eight-team AFC Challenge Cup which India won
last time at home in 2008.
Sukhwinder said North Korea would be a tough opponent
since they would be sending a strong squad with some of their
first team players in it but said his boys would be ready for
"North Korea no doubt would be a strong opponent. They
have qualified for the 2010 World Cup (in June-July in South
Africa). They would now want to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian
Cup. But my boys are up for the challenge," he told reporters from
Pune where a 29-member squad has been undergoing training
since February 5.
"In a way it is good for us. We would be able to measure
our strength against a strong Asian side (North Korea). We are
in a tough group which has North Korea, Turkmenistan and
Kyrgyzstan. But I believe I have a squad which can do very
well in the tournament," he added.
In Hyderabad edition two years ago, North Korea who were
represented by an Under-21 side were not in India`s group and
lost to Tajikistan, the eventual runners-up, in the semifinal.
The former JCT coach, who was also at the helm of affairs
with the senior side from 1999 to 2002, said the experience
from the tournament would be of great help for the Asian Games
in November in China.
"For us, since we have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup
the stake is not that high though we are not taking this
tournament lightly. Asian Games is an important target for us
and this tournament will help us in preparing for China. A
good show in the tournament will give us the momentum after
the SAFF Cup win in December last," Sukhwinder said.
Sukhwinder though had to face some injury problems at the
training camp at Bharatiya Vidyapeeth ground in Pune. He said
midfielders Baldeep Singh, Jagtar Singh and Manish Maithani
are unlikely to make it to the final squad to be named
Because of the injuries to these midfielders Pune FC
players Godwin Franco was added to the camp.
"The camp was going on nicely with good ground and good
facilities except for injury issues to a few players. Baldeep,
Jagtar and Manish are unlikely to make it to the Colombo
squad," the experienced coach said.