India face uphill task against Qatar in return leg
Pune: India face a tough task as they need a vastly improved performance than their 1-3 loss against Qatar in the first leg, when they take on the same opponents for a place in the third final round of the 2012 football Olympic qualifiers here on Thursday.
India were outplayed by a technically superior Qatar in the first leg in Doha on June 19 and it will be a difficult job, if not impossible, for Desmond Bulpin`s under-23 boys to turn the tables tomorrow at Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium Balewadi.
A 2-0 win will see India through to the final round on 3-3 aggregate and on away goal rule, but Bulpin`s worry would be in his defence as his boys had been a disappointment in that front in the first leg.
The back four comprising of Abhishek Das, Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad and Gurjinder Kumar had faced a torrid time in the first leg and India ill-afford to let in goals in the return leg.
Bulpin will also be looking to his midfielders to come good at the home ground where they had played often in the I-League and also during the short camp before the qualifiers.
Bulpin admitted that Qatar are a technically better side but is not ready to rule out a surprise from his boys.
"I`m proud of my boys. The manner in which they fought against a more technically equipped side (in the first leg), it speaks about their character," he said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
The city has been witnessing light rains for the past few days and heavy ground conditions could favour the home side though not much.
Bulpin is not banking much on the rain factor, saying, "The rain may just give us a slight edge, not a distinct one."
For captain Raju Gaikwad, it is going to be playing all out for a win.
"We have to go all out. There aren`t many other options left," he said.
But his coach Bulpin will have to plan for the Qatari counter-attack.
"If we go all out, we need to be careful when they counter-attack. They are very good in passing the ball," he said.
Qatar coach Simondi Bernard is confident his side will go through but has advised his boys to be careful.
"We could have done better at home. Bulpin utilised his boys well. It`s India`s home match and we will be careful," he said.