We are the favourites, challenges are not many: Wim Koevermans
Greater Noida: Despite entering the tournament as the lowest ranked team, national football coach Wim Koevermans preferred to dub India the "favourites" in the Nehru Cup, and is confident of the side retaining the title for the third straight time.
Defending champions India have won the tournament in 2007 and 2009, but the slide in FIFA rankings (168) recently is not something the team would have wanted to, going into the five-nation tournament.
"Challenges are not many. For me India is the favourite. Everybody looks at the rankings. We are the underdogs. But we will try to win," Koevermans said at the pre-tournament press conference here today.
"I am looking forward to the start of Nehru Cup. Syria (opening encounter) will be a very challenging game. We have gained some information about Syria.
"After the first game, we will be able to see all the teams live," the Dutchman, who was part of the 1988 European Cup-winning squad, said.
Koevermans expressed confidence when asked if his boys have been able to adopt his style of play.
"I think total football style of play suits our players. We started with something which was not rocket science. I have told them to keep the ball on the ground as long as possible. This is possible with these players. I have told them to win the ball back for better defending. The team has worked on these areas. But the best test is the official match.
"They are very good players. But you cannot see them when the ball is in the air," said Koevermans.
"I believe they can adapt to the desired style of play as it suits them very well. These guys are not very tall so I thought the pass and play style would suit them, and they are coping really well."
Asked if the team would be under any sort of pressure considering that they are the two-time defending champions, the coach responded in negative.
"Our aim is to win it. By looking back, you cannot win anything," said Koevermans.
Koevermans is pleased with the efforts the players have put in at training sessions.
"I`m really happy with the way things have gone so far. The boys have given their 100 per cent in each and every training session and I feel they have a lot of potential," he said at the Jaypee Greens` Integrated Sports Complex.
"It`s a learning process for me and also the players. Qualifying for the AFC tournament is most important."
Asked about the criteria for selecting the team, he said: "It`s very simple... We looked at the players` performances and balance of the team."
Portugal-returned skipper Sunil Chhetri hopes to share his experiences of the Iberian country with his national teammates.
"I hope to share the knowledge and experience of training there (at his club Sporting Lisbon) with my teammates."
The star striker said it was important that the players understand what the coach wants.
"The most important thing for a player is to understand what the coach wants from him and the team at large. We as a team should respond to the coach and play as a cohesive unit. I feel that is the most important thing.
"I`ve been training with the team for the past one week and I can`t wait for the tournament to begin. As far as this new style of play is concerned, all I would like to say is that the team is doing well and trying to adapt the style. It won`t happen overnight. You have to give it time and I believe with time we will be able to achieve our goal," Chhetri said.
About meeting Syria -- whom they had beaten in the last two finals -- in the tournament opener here tomorrow," he said, "They are one of the more improved nations in Asia. All I know about them is that they are very good. But having said that, it`s about us, isn`t it? We have to stick to the plan and play our game. Rest will be taken care of."
Cameroon coach Emmanuel Bosso, whose team will be making a maiden appearance in the tournament, said that the team that plays in the Champions League in Africa and other international events, will be competing in the tournament here.