2013 SAFF Championship: India vs Pakistan - Preview

Kathmandu: Wim Koevermans, coach of the Indian national team, believes his team have the ability to retain the crown they earned in 2011. The Dutchman, who is an year into his reign, faces an acid test of sorts when his team travel to the mountain country of Nepal.

Yes, the pressure is always on team that owns the Cup and we are here to defend the title and we want to win it, and that’s our aim,” assured a cool Koevermans. But the expectations are there to linger.

Koevermans also acknowledged the team’s mentality for the tournament. “We are here to defend title so every game is a final, all 5 are important to us. We have to do our bit to win all the matches,” were his assurances.

He also replayed the view India were the team to beat.

Though India have won the Nehru Cup under Koevermans beating the Cameroon ‘B’ team, results since then have been far too diluted with them failing to qualify for the Challenge Cup, let alone qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. He now plans to win back a lot of the confidence he seems to have lost by defending the crown his team earned in their last outing of the tournament in 2011 under Savio Madeira.

Sunil Chhetri will be a major thorn in the opposition`s backline looking to break Bhaichung Bhutia’s all time goal record for India.

Pakistan coach, Shahzad Anwar, though wasn’t too far off in backing his team against the odds. “We have had very good preparations, and we have a very young lot. God willing, we shall produce good results.

“We have emphasized on special training session and the boys are in good shape. We are in a very good group, and boys are very motivated. The first game is against India and then we also face Bangladesh. God willing, we shall qualify for second round.”

Adnan Ahmed, a former Manchester United graduate also refurbished the national team coach`s views by stating, “I joined the team a couple of days ago and we are working on our formation at the moment.

“Winning the championship will be a difficult task but with the new coach, new ideas and strategies, you never know. It’s a good thing because every player wants to impress the new coach and that will bring the best out of them. It’ll improve us as a team. Hopefully we can pull off some surprise performances in the championship.”

Pakistan will look to improve on their displays at the SAFF Championship, having gotten to the semis in the 1997, 2003 and 2005 editions, but have failed to get past the group stages ever since, even though they were the first South Asian side to allow foreign based players of Pakistani origin to play for them.

Zesh Rehman, the lynchpin, is a calming influence to the team at the back, alongwith the experience of having played at a professional level for most of his career.

Whatever be the outcome, this game promises to have all the writings of one for the ages, written all over it. It may not decide the fate of the respective teams in the group, but it will go a long way in ensuring the bragging rights amongst these “close” neighbours.