Margao: Without the striking duo of Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua, an acid test awaits the Indian football team as it prepares to take on higher-ranked Zambia in a friendly international ahead of the SAFF Championship, on Tuesday.
Both the first-choice strikers are away for trials at Scottish giants Rangers, and coach Savio Medeira felt their absence has provided the others with an opportunity to prove themselves.
But it`s not going to be easy to outperform a nation, ranked 79th in the world, almost 83 places above India in the FIFA rankings.
Here as part of the golden jubilee celebration of the Goa Football Association, The Zambians showed their class with a 4-1 demolition of Goa XI on Sunday.
While the Indians will be using the match at the Nehru stadium to tune their squad for the SAFF Cup, the Zambians would look to prepare for the African Nations Cup in January.
Medeira was aware of the Zambian challenge.
"The match is very important for us. This is a great opportunity to gauge where we stand. The Zambian team is ranked higher than us and are an athletic side. It will be a learning experience for the boys ahead of the SAFF Championship," he said.
As far as the absence of Chhetri and Jeje was concerned, the coach said, "It`s true the duo has brought us laurels in the recent past. But this is a great opportunity for the others to prove themselves."
The Indians would look to repeat their performance against Malaysia when they won the second match 3-2 to clinch the two-match series.
"If we play as a unit, the manner we played against Malaysia, we should pose a challenge for Zambia. We hope to bank on the crowd support. We will give our 100 per cent," said Baljit Sahni.
However, the Zambians are going to be a hard nut to crack.
Their pace and power were on display as they moved the ball with flair against Goa XI.
Zambia`s coach Herve Renald said that what the spectators saw yesterday was average stuff, and the best was yet to come.
"We did not do well in the first half as we missed a lot of chances and also conceded a soft goal early in the second half. But after the introduction of youngsters we turned the table.
"Tomorrow, we are playing our international friendly against India who will be stronger and we will have to play much better. I will be making six changes from the starting line-up and expect an entertaining game.
"We have come here not for result but to test some of the young boys from this team who would be wearing Zambia jersey in the future as they are talented and skillful. With 20 of our main players playing abroad, there is scope for three slots to be filled and a couple of players from this side may get a chance if they impress me," stated Renald.
Following is the India XI squad:
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Subhasish Roychowdhury, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Defenders: Jaspal Parmar, Sameer Naik, Mahesh Gawli, Debabrata Roy, Nirmal Chettri, Syed Rahim Nabi, Gouramangi Moirangthem, Govin Moirangthem.
Midfielders: Baldeep Singh, Rocus Lamare, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Francis Fernandes, Climax Lawrence, Anthony Pereira, Clifford Miranda, Jewel Raja, Steven Dias, Lalrindika Ralte.
Forwards: Baljit Sahni, Sushil Singh, Joaquim Abranches.