Thank you Mr Houghton
Last few days were good for Indian football. Actually, they performed much better than popular expectation. India managed to get a place in the semi final of AFC Challenge Cup. Bob Houghton, Indian coach is happy. Indian team is happy, and of course we are happy.
However, if we go match by match, we won’t see any exceptional performance by India. But, India did enough to qualify for the Semi Final. Team did rest a few in the first match and came up with a win. The second match was drawn as a result of too many players getting rested. The third was our full team and we outplayed the opponents. The critics say the ground condition was bad enough in the last match but given Indian dominance in the match, it is unlikely that India would have lost it had the match played on a normal surface.
Bob Houghton took some good decisions in the mean time. He rested players properly. He employed the long-ball game strategy since he was not sure of skills of his squad. Last but not the least, he motivated the team to win matches. For last few years, that motivation was somehow missing from the team. I am a firm supporter of his ideas of changing Indian football infrastructure since what he proposed is not an abrupt change, but a small delta on the existing system. I agree to him when he says that Indian National footballers should play less in local leagues. I like people who solve the problem step by step.
I am not sure what’s the scoreline going to be for next two matches. I can understand that this tournament is a better oppourtunity than the Nehru Cup, as this will be the ticket provider for the next AFC Asian Cup in 2011. If India can manage to win this, they’ll be through to play a few Asian powerhouses. More importantly, the matches would be in 2011, i.e. 3 years from now. India can build a team focussing the same tournament.
One more importance of Asia Asian cup is in terms of ranking. AFC Asian cup will provide a lot of points for winning (or even a draw) than a similar win in AFC Challenge cup or the Nehru Cup (these are termed as friendlies). If India can get through to top 16 somehow, then Houghton can really do something and people will shout for pouring more money into the game. As an upward spiral Indian football can gain momentum in this way. Bob Houghton did understand that. He is indeed a wise man.
The only point where I disagree with him is the decision to exclude Alvito from Indian squad. I am really clueless about such a valuable player sitting out of the ground. Steven Dias provides crosses from the right wing and what happens if there’s another Steven? Pradeep shoots at goal from distance and what happens if there is another Pradeep? Alvito is a mix of Pradeep and Steven, who can both cross well and shoot from distance. He is indeed a valuable player. Even yesterday he stamped his authority on the game with another world class goal (video provided).
I know that I may be wrong. I know India may win AFC Challenge Cup without Alvito. India may play well without him. But, I don’t see any reason to ignore him at all. Alvito is an asset of the team and I want him to play for India. Is Bob Houghton listening to me?
Another post on the same topic.
Update : India did actually won the AFC Challenge Cup, beating Tajiks 4-1 in the final. This time the match was played on a good surface and India really outclassed their opponents. See the goals :