Indian team arrives in Myanmar for AFC Challenge Qualifiers
Yangon: The Indian senior national team sans Churchill Brothers and East Bengal players reached here today for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers which begins on March 2.
The players, who left Mumbai last night, landed early this morning here via Singapore. They were greeted by a temperature of 34 degrees even as weather forecast predicted a sharp rise in temperature in the coming days.
India has been clubbed in Group A along with hosts Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and Guam.
The four players from Churchill -- Sandip Nandy, Denzil Franco, Lenny Rodrigues and Sunil Chhetri -- would join the squad tomorrow after their AFC Cup match in Hong Kong today while the three East Bengal players -- Raju Gaikwad, Mehtab Hossain and Robin Singh -- would land in Myanmar on February 28 after playing their side`s AFC Cup match in Kolkata.
"It feels nice to be here. It`s a tricky group and all the teams are very competitive ones," coach Wim Koevermans said after the arrival here.
AIFF Player-of-the-Year Syed Rahim Nabi was confident that India would do well in the tournament. "We need to keep our faith in ourselves. We need to back ourselves both on and off the field. We need to behave as a team," Nabi said.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, who made a comeback into the national squad after almost a year, said the tournament would be a "challenging one". "We have played Myanmar and Chinese Taipei in recent past and they are very dangerous opponents. Guam would also put up a tough challenge," Jeje said.
"I`m relieved that my hard work has paid off. Every player wants to be a part of national squad. This is a new beginning for me. I will have to work harder and wait for my chance," he quipped.
India play Chinese Taipei in their campaign opener on March 2, followed by matches against Guam and Myanmar on March 4 and March 6 respectively.
Twenty countries have been divided into five groups of four with the quartet playing against each other in a round-robin format at a centralised venue. The five group winners and two best second-placed teams will join host nation Maldives at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup finals.