New Delhi: By beating the Maldives, Cameroon reduced the last round-robin game in the Nehru Cup football tournament against India Friday to an exercise in probing and ticking a few boxes before Tuesday`s final between the two teams.
Both the reigning champions and the highest-ranked team in the tournament will test their bench, giving their top guns a breather in the inconsequential game Friday.
Cameroon carried India with them into the final with their decisive 3-1 victory over the Maldives Wednesday.
The central African side may have done a good turn to India, but they are unlikely to extend any more favours to the hosts.
The Cameroonians have shown gradual improvement after a none-too-impressive 2-2 draw with Syria in their opener. They were in full bloom thrashing a lacklustre Nepal 5-0 and dominated a spirited 10-man Maldives.
Ebanga Bertin, the tournament`s top scorer with four goals, and Kingue Mpondo`s performance would have sent the alarm bells ringing in the Indian dressing room where they must be making plans as to how to keep the two quiet.
India on the other hand started their Nehru Cup campaign at a blistering pace, beating Syria 2-1, thumping the Maldives 3-0, but were surprisingly clueless on a rain-drenched turf tying Nepal goalless.
Wim Koevermans` style of "total football" will be severely tested in the game against the much more physical and faster opponents.
The Dutchman will also get an opportunity to test out his fringe players. Highly-rated youngster Alwyn George hasn`t had a touch of the football and might finally get his chance as the coach looks to freshen things up, resting key players.
Koevermans, who watched Cameroon demolish the Maldives from the galleries, will have another chance from closer quarters to scrutinise his opponents before the final.
India will once again rely on Sunil Chhetri to get the goals. The Sporting Lisbon `B` striker has had a good tournament, scoring three goals.
Lack of height has been a major problem for India, especially in rain-hit underfoot conditions where the long balls is more profitable. The deficiency could surely be exploited by the Cameroonians with their bigger built.
For all their follies, India have been impressive in midfield. Lenny Rodriguez and Mehtab Hossain have kept the attack moving, goading the wingers constantly.
Syed Rahim Nabi has been a revelation. His marauding runs down the left created immense problems for the opposition. The diminutive left-back has combined well with Clifford Miranda. The linkmen have been a major source of inspiration and they hold the key for India`s success.