India football coach Wim Koevermans today said he expects tough competition in the two friendly matches against Pakistan to be played on August 17 and 20. (India and Pakistan renew rivalry on football pitch)
"As we know whenever India and Pakistan play each other, they turn out to be good games," he told reporters here ahead of the first friendly match here tomorrow. Replying to a query, Koevermans said the exposure tour to Czech Republic was a good experience for the boys. "The level of football played in Czech Republic is of very high standard. The boys came back richer in experience. We will also play some good opposition in China prior to the Games in Incheon. That surely will make the boys stronger," he said. Asked about quality goal scorers besides Sunil Chhetri, Kovermans said, "It is not him alone, but there are other two senior players -- Robin Singh and Francis Fernandes -- who can score. (Always special to play against Pakistan: Sunil Chhetri)
"Also you all need to remember that Sunil does not only score goals but also creates a lot of them," he said. "Our aim is to develop the team in all aspects of the game. So far I feel we have made progress and we would be able to judge it in the two forthcoming matches," Koevermans said. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri said the one-and-a-half month exposure camp has helped his side to gel together as there were many players who came from different I-League teams and most were not in shape.
"The best part is that we have got a lot of time to gel. There are a number of young players who came from different I-League teams and not all of us were in the best possible shape. The long exposure camp has helped us for sure," he said. Thanking the AIFF for organising the friendly matches, Pakistan coach from Bahrain Mohammad Shamlan said playing against India would help his players in their preparations for the Asian Games.
Shamlan said Pakistan were confident of achieving a positive result in both matches and the tour will help young players gain international experience.
"India are a good side and we are building a team for the future. I hope this tour will help our young players gain a lot of experience. We are confident of achieving a positive result in both the matches," he said.
Pakistan captain Kaleemullah said the team hopes to win both the matches. "Our most inspiring result came against Jordan where we went down by a solitary goal," he said. "We are a young team which is being built keeping an eye on the future. We are confident of achieving a positive result."
Earlier, welcoming the Pakistan delegation, AIFF Executive Committee member A R Khaleel said the two countries should play more often. "Sports has always helped people to bond among themselves. This is a historic moment for Indian football. We eagerly look forward to the matches," he said.
Pakistan Football Federation's Marketing Consultant Sardar Naveed Haider Khan said this friendly series will help a lot in the promotion of football in the region. "We hope to make friends, both on and off the field," he stated. The match will telecast live on Doordarshan Sports tomorrow.