Sukhwinder ready to take on World Cup qualifiers North Korea
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Last Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010, 21:16
  
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 Africa.

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 the test.

"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 tomorrow.

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.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010, 21:16


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