India confident of winning start in AFC Cup

Kathmandu: The mood in the Indian camp is upbeat as the Sunil Chhetri-led side gets ready to begin its campaign against a higher ranked Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup football tournament at the Dasarath Stadium on Friday.

India did not have a great outing in the two international friendlies against Azerbaijan and Oman, preceding the tournament, but coach Savio Medeira is confident that the team would come out all guns blazing against Tajikistan.

"It was difficult for us to field the front line team in the two international friendlies, as most of our players were nursing some injuries. But now all of them have recovered. We have a full-strength side at our disposal," Medeira said.

He added that the team will "fight till the last second" to overwhelm its rivals.

"The team is raring to go against Tajikistan. All the boys are charged up for the match. I am confident they will come out with their best.”

"We will fight till the last second of the match. We would not give any chance to our rivals," he added.

The coach also revealed that coming a bit early for the tournament helped the team to get "acclimatised to the conditions". However, he said India will have to guard against complacency.

"Tajikistan are strong opponents. We need to stay alert in all the departments, especially defense. They have a very potent forward line and striker Yusuf Rabiev is a dangerous poacher.”

"Whatever we have learnt in our preparation, we need to take it forward. We need to play as cohesive unit and learn to handle the pressure," he insisted.

The most essential aspect for them would be to get the combination right.

Karanjit Singh is most likely to be the first choice goalkeeper, while Samir Naik and Syed Rahim Nabi are likely to be the two wing-backs with Gourmangi Singh and Raju Gaikwad the two stoppers.

The four-man midfield is likely to be manned by Anthony Pereira, Adil Khan, Rocus Lamara and Francis Fernandes while Chhetri and Sushil Singh will start upfront.

A niggle to midio, Lalrindika Rlate, may be a cause of little worry to the Indian side but the coach remains confident of his team`s chances against Tajikistan.

"Midfielder Lalrindika Rlate stays a bit suspect. He is suffering from a niggle and we haven`t taken a decision as yet. The rest of the squad are all available and raring to
go," he informed.

Although placed 14 places higher than India at 140 in the FIFA rankings, Tajikistan should be aware of Chhetri`s boys.

They are heavily dependent on Yusuf Rabiev, who is the all-time top scorer for the country.

India have a decent track record against Tajikistan in the previous edition of the tournament, winning one match and managing to draw the other. And Chhetri remains confident that his team will put the right foot forward in tomorrow`s match.

"We have come over here with only one objective and that is to win at any cost. We won`t leave any stone unturned to achieve our goal. All the players including me would try to repeat our performance of the SAFF Championship," Chhetri said.


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