Phagwara: Sukhwinder Singh has taken over from Stephen Constantine as the coach of the India football team. His first assignment is a three-match series against Pakistan, which starts this Sunday. Pakistan are ranked 177, more than 40 places below India who are 135. So India start out as clear favourites. The last time India played Pakistan was at the SAF Games in Islamabad last year and the hosts beat India 1-0. Tight schedule The national team has been in the small town of Phagwara to prepare for their first tour across the border in 45 years. The team is scheduled to play three games in seven days in Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore. Keeping in mind the weather conditions that will greet the players, it was no surprise that the AIFF decided to have the camp in Phagwara. But it was not the only reason. "We have had camps in Goa and in Kolkata, but over there we had the pressure of journalists and the crowds. It was not like they would interfere, but their was pressure on us," said R C Venkatesh, Captain. The camp went on for 16 days under new coach Sukhwinder Singh, who replaced Englishman Stephen Constantine. Bhutia unavailable Baichung Bhutia is unavailable due to illness and I M Vijayan may have retired, but the players don't feel that they're short on strikers regardless of what their former coach had to say about the shortage of proven goal scorers in India. The tour is being looked upon as a grooming ground for a lot of the new players since eight out of the 21 members in the team are from the Under 23 squad. India have a hectic schedule towards the end of the year as they begin qualification for the 2008 Asia Cup and will then travel to Qatar for the Asian Games.
Topics : Football