Nehru Cup: India's shot at glory

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> It's a serious test, or rather, Syria's Test, for the football team on Wednesday.

Updated: August 29, 2007 14:46 IST
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New Delhi:

It's a serious test, or rather, Syria's Test, for the football team on Wednesday, as they play what is being touted as a revenge match against the Southwest Asians.

The 112th-ranked Syrians came into the tournament as the favourites, and after beating the hosts in the preliminary round, will go into the final holding the upper hand.

But what might just upset the applecart for the Syrians is the sensational form of India's marksmen.

The biggest concern for India before the Nehru Cup was where the goals would come from. But Baichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri have ripped the formbook, scoring four apiece, and helping their team find the net 12 times en route to the Final.

The defence and midfield have also looked well organized and in control, but the biggest enemy will be the one thing that Bob Houghton's side couldn't have controlled, the fatigue arising out of the tight playing schedule, which has worked more in Syria's favour

"They've had a relatively easy game and an extra day's rest. We'd like to swap that around. But still, it's our second game against them.

"We'll try one or two things a little differently. Just hope that we can get our players a bit of rest, and ready to play.

"Five games in 13 days is hard work, very hard work. Especially in this climate, it's hard work," said Bob Houghton, Indian Football Coach.

The Syrians dominated the last encounter between the two sides, which the Southwest Asians won 3-2. And their supremacy in the air might well leave Bob Houghton's forehead creased with worry throughout the final.

"For us, given our height, it is not easy for us to defend free-kicks in our own penalty area. Or corner-kicks, against teams like Syria, as we saw in the last game. It's difficult. So we have to find ways around that.

"One of the ways around it is to pressure the ball in the other team's half of the field, keep the ball as far away from the goal as we can. Another thing is to not give too many set-plays away," he said.

Aiming high

India's good performance in this event has helped them jump eleven places up the rankings to 151st.
And while it has helped boost the team's morale ahead of the all-important World Cup qualifiers, the coach believes the momentum gathered might just be checked because of changes in the international calendar

"Unfortunately, after the World Cup qualifiers in October, we might not play a game again till next March. So we've got to start a little bit again over there.

"This group has now been together for seven or eight weeks. And I think we've made some progress, and I'd like to do that regularly, throughout the year. Then I think we could maintain that. That's why I think we've organized that calendar," said Bob Houghton.

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