New Delhi: Under the tutelege of Wim Koevermans whose country gave birth to 'total football', holders India will look to regain lost ground after plummeting to their lowest-ever rankings in recent years, in the Nehru Cup opener against Syria, here on Wednesday.
Though it is easier said than done, the Indian national football team of late has been trying hard to get a hang of the difficult concept total football under new coach Koevermans and are hping to start off on 'Wim-ing' note.
The hosts have triumphed in the last two editions, in 2007 and 2009, and the mood in the camp, despite entering the tournament as the lowest ranked nation at 168th in the FIFA charts, seemed upbeat.
Testimony to that was the training session at the Jaypee Greens' Integrated Sports Complex here. The players have been slogging hard at the state-of-the-art facility for the past few days and they seemed to have enjoyed every bit of it.
The five-nation tournament at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium will give one an insight into the progress made by the national team under Koevermans, for whom it be the first assignment.
With stars like Bhaichung Bhutia, Climax Lawrence, Mahesh Gawli and Renedy Singh -- all of them have played in the last two editions -- retired, the team may lack slightly in terms of experience.
A lot will depend on how skipper Sunil Chhetri performs upfront. He has just returned after a pre-season training with Porteguese club -- Sporting Lisbon -- and the striker's teammates will certainly look upto him.
Configured in the traditional 4-4-2 system during previous coach Bob Houghton's era, the team did enjoy some success. But the outfit has moved on from that system and is most likely to play in 1-4-4-1-1 formation (including goalkeeper), with Chhetri being the lone man upfront and promising newcomer Alwyn George playing just behind the captain in his preferred position.
One positive aspect is that the Indian players are fast adopting to Koevermans' style of play, a far cry from what they were taught during Houghton's era.
"It is a new start for me and for the players. It is a learning process for me and them as well," Koevermans said in the pre-tournament press conference here today.
"I enjoyed training with the players. Every training session was 100 per cent. The players were disciplined and worked hard," the Dutchman, who was part of the 1988 Euro Cup winning team, added.
No less pragmatic was Chhetri though he conceded that change is not going to happen overnight. "It is not going to change in one day. The players and the coach have to be in sync. We are giving 100 per cent. You will see how much change we have made (to our game)," the striker said.
"The main leader is the coach. It is very important to understand his plan. If I and my team mates are good, then we understand the plan well," Chhetri, who has been at the forefront of the Indian football team's moment of triumphs in recent years, added.
The core squad remains more or less the same with the likes of Gouramangi Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda, Mehtab Hossain and Nirmal Chetri expected to lead the youngsters in the tournament that, beside Syria and India, also features Cameroon, Maldives and Nepal.
There will be a departure from the past as far as the venue is concerned, with the tournament to be hosted at the JLN instead of the players' more preferred Ambedkar stadium, which played host in the last two editions.
Koevermans is emphasising a lot on possession. "The sport is all about the ball. You keep possession, you stay in control. You lose possession, you need to gain it back fast so that you stay in control," he said.