India to take on Myanmar on Sunday

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> India begin their campaign in the six-nation invitational football tournament against Myanmar here tomorrow.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Ho Chi Minh City:

With rains playing spoilsport in their pre-tournament preparation, India begin their campaign in the six-nation invitational football tournament against Myanmar here tomorrow hoping to repeat the 2002 magic when they went home with a rare title. The Indians, now placed 142nd in FIFA rankings, are five places above their group A rivals of the morrow, but the absence of striker Asim Biswas was troubling chief coach Stephen Constantine. Biswas had to pull out at the last moment following a torn cartilage and Bijen Singh has been taken as a replacement. "Yes, we will feel his (Asim's) absence," Constantine said before the team flew here on August 18. Constantine was planning to start with skipper Bhaichung Bhutia and Abhishek Yadav upfront against the Myanmarese, who suffered a humiliating 0-5 drubbing against the hosts in the tournament opener yesterday. While Bhutia's experience, agility and scoring prowess has always been an asset to the Indian team, Yadav is a favourite of the Anglo-Cypriot coach for his dual ability to overwhelm rival defenders and simultaneusly assist the rearguard in cutting off opponent raids using his height. Sangram Mukherjee was likely to start under the bar with Deepak Mandal, Debjit Ghosh and Mahesh Gawli being the mainstays in defence for the match at the Thong Nhat Stadium. Constantine also seems to be banking on Shanmugam Venkatesh to play the feeder role in the midfield. The team management was aware that India cannot take the Myanmarese lightly, even after the heavy drubbing the latter suffered against the hosts. One might recall that the same Myanmar team had handed out a 0-4 shocker to Kolkata glamour outfit Mohun Bagan during a firendly in Yangon earlier this month. India play their second match in the group against Vietnam on August 24. "The rains have been the only problem. Because of the weather we could not practice to the extent we would have liked before playing our first match," manager Amitava Biswas said. (PTI)

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