India take on Maldives in test of strength for WC

Male: A new-look Indian football team will test their strength in Armando Colaco`s first match as coach when they take on Maldives on Sunday in an international friendly ahead of their World Cup qualifiers.

The match against South Asian rivals Maldives will be the first international friendly in preparations for India`s World Cup qualifiers against United Arab Emirates on July 23 and 28 and the maiden game for Colaco as national coach.

Colaco will be fielding a new-look side with many of the stalwarts like Bhaichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh having been dropped to infuse young blood against the team whom they have played mostly at the South Asian competitions.

India and Maldives have played against each other on 14 occasions. India have won nine times while losing four matches. The remaining one match was a drawn affair.

India`s recent record against Maldives, however, has not been that impressive. In the last three matches, Maldives had beaten India on two occasions -- in the finals of SAF Games in Dhaka last year and South Asian Football Federation Cup in 2008.

In the third match, India had beaten Maldives in the final of the SAFF Cup in 2009.

Colaco is not willing to take anything for granted against Maldives, who are presently ranked four places below India, at 151st in the FIFA ladder.

"We need to finalise our playing XI before the World Cup double-leg qualifiers against UAE," Colaco said, hinting that he will try various options in his first match as national coach.

"We have worked hard at the camp (in New Delhi). The boys are raring to go and we are taking one match at a time," he said.

Colaco has achieved almost everything at the national circuit as Dempo coach but said being at the helm of affairs of the national team was "something different".

"It`s exciting, there`s more responsibility. The passion for one`s country knows no bounds," he said.

Colaco`s counterpart, Argentinean coach Diego Cruciani was not too pleased playing India.

"India friendly is not my best wish to play. I would prefer a much more difficult opponent abroad to put our plans against Iran (World Cup qualifiers opponent). At home we will certainly play to win," he said.

Colaco refused to be drawn into a verbal duel with the Maldivian coach.

According to reports, Iran`s Portuguese coach Carlos Quiroz is expected to watch the match from the stands.


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