A day ahead of the start of the 2011 SAFF Championship, India Coach Savio Madeira spoke to www.the-aiff.com at length about India's chances in the Championship and the role of international friendlies. Excerpts:
How difficult will it be for India to defend the SAFF Championship?
It's all about that particular day. Every team playing here will try to play their best against the defending champions. We need to stay alert and perform to our best if we are to defend the title. There's no room for complacency.
What are the positives which emerged out of the last match against Zambia?
They were a quality opposition and no team in the SAFF Championship will be as strong as them. We need to put that match to rest and focus on the future. And I have full faith in my bunch of boys.
Do you believe the international friendlies have helped India to prepare for the SAFF Championship?
With the I-League on, it was the best way to get as much practice as possible. It has added to our confidence and will help us in the long run.
What are the areas where India needs to improve?
Looking back, I feel we did not attack enough to put the rival defence under pressure. We need to improve on that. We also need to get the defence a bit more compact. Overall, we need to work harder.
How will their trials at Rangers have benefited Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua?
It would have helped them more if the trials lasted a bit more longer - maybe for a month. It's difficult for players to acclimatize so fast, especially in alien conditions. But I'm sure, they will come back as more confident players and I hope their confidence will inspire the rest of their mates.
Following is the list of 20 registered Indian players for the SAFF Cup:
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Subhashish Roy Chaudhari, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Defenders: Mahesh Gawli, Nirmal Chettri, Samir Naik, Syed Rahim Nabi, Govin Singh, Gouramangi Singh.
Midfielders: Climax Lawrence (C), Anthony Pereira, Clifford Miranda, Jewel Raja, Lalrindika Ralte, Steven Dias, Rocus Lamare.
Strikers: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sushil Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Joachim Abranches.