New Delhi: Despite Sunil Chhetri’s none-too-impressive outing, national football team coach Bob Houghton backed the US-returned striker moments after India registered a convincing win over Namibia in an international friendly here at the Ambedkar Stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts rode on Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Anthony Pereira’s goals on either side of the break to run out easy winners.
Asked about Chhetri’s performance, Houghton said, “He didn’t have the best night and it was just one bad day for him, but he was alright in the last two games against Thailand.”
“But overall, after playing three games in the last 12 days, I think we have made progress. We are better in terms of fitness, our passing has improved, we are better organised. It’s just the question of getting the balance right,” a visibly pleased Houghton said.
“I think we have got to defend the way we did against Thailand but we attacked better tonight,” he said.
Dwelling further on the performance of his boys today, the Englishman said that the two centrebacks- Gouramangi Singh and Anwar Ali did a very good job.
“Mahesh did fine, Abhishek (Yadav) was ok and Bhaichung is Bhaichung,” Houghton said.
India plunged 22 places down to 160th in the latest FIFA rankings released today and Houghton, as expected, attributed that to the limited number of matches the national team plays in a year.
“We have just beaten a side which is 44 places above us, so what do you make of it. It’s the system that creates the rankings. The AIFF has tried really hard to get as many matches as possible in September but the fact is that they (foreign teams) don’t fancy coming to India because they know the facilities are not great here,” Houghton said.
Meanwhile, Namibia coach Tom Saintfiet, not effusive in his praise for Houghton’s boys, felt that the Indian players looked physically stronger.
“I thought they played effective football. You don’t need to be brilliant, you just need to play to win and that’s what India did,” Saintfiet said.
Saintfiet also expressed displeasure at the referring and questioned the two goals, saying that the referee took some decisions which could have gone either way.
“Both were lucky goals. I’m not too sure about the freekick (that led to India’s second goal). But then I must say India did better,” the Belgian said.
“We were playing well for the first 20 minutes, till India scored. Then in the second half we started well and our right side was stronger than left. We played good but we couldn’t win.”