India`s final international against Syria cancelled

New Delhi: Indian national football team`s final international friendly against Syria on December 26 in the tune-up to next month`s Asian Cup in Doha is unlikely to be held, a development which would deprive the side of much-needed match practice ahead of the continental showpiece.

The All India Football Federation and team officials neither confirmed nor denied that the match has been cancelled but it was learnt from reliable sources that the match is not going to be held.

The cancellation will hit hard the Indian players who have so far played against only three countries (participating in the January 7-29 event) and are unlikely to play any more before the tournament. All the other sides are busy playing international matches.

This is the second such instance after India`s international friendly against Qatar, slated be held on December 19, was cancelled.

At that time also, the AIFF had not given any reason for the cancellation even though the national team had traveled down to Doha to play the match.

Team manager Pradip Chowdhury refused to comment when asked if the Syria match has been cancelled or not.

"It is better to ask the AIFF officials," he told reporters from Dubai, where the team has been based for nearly two months.

Chowdhury said striker Sunil Chhetri has recovered from his ankle injury while the team management is hoping that captain Bhaichung Bhutia will be fit for the tournament.

"Sunil has started training and as for Bhutia, hopefully he should be fit for the Asian Cup," he said.

Bhutia had flown down to Chennai early this month to get his hamstring injury treated by a Chennai sports medicine expert who had earlier worked with the Indian national team.

The Indian team is reaching Doha on January 7 and will play its first group match, against Australia, three days later.

The 23-member Indian squad for the Asian Cup will have to
be submitted to the AFC by December 28.