Colaco uneasy about team's future

Indian football coach, Armando Colaco, does not want pressure telling upon his wards with the Thursday's World Cup qualifier against UAE just round the corner.

Colaco addresses the media

"Please don't put pressure on the boys," was the quick response of Colaco when he was reminded that Thursday's pre-World Cup qualifier against UAE is most likely to be India's last serious competitive engagement for the next four years.

Already out of the Olympic contention, the national team's World Cup campaign suffered a body blow last Saturday when they lost 3-0 and two crucial men to UAE, away from home. So, Thursday's return-leg at the Ambedkar Stadium assumes tremendous significance.

It doesn't seem to have caught the imagination of the players involved. They went through the motions at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and returned to the awaiting bus pulling a prank or two.

Armando didn't miss the gravity of the situation. "I know how things stand. After Thursday, for the next four years, the national team will only play friendlies and make exposure trips."

He opted for a reflective analysis of what could have been. "The referee (Banjar Al Doasry) just killed the game for us when he red-carded Debabrata Roy so early. Then Subrata (Paul) followed. Still, with nine men we managed well."

He was referring to the ejection of Roy and goalkeeper Paul early in the away game against UAE. "We have been playing well of late. The win against Qatar (a friendly) was a huge boost. I am assuring you, it's not a flash in the pan. But in the game that mattered, everything fell apart."

The coach couldn't disguise his genuine grief. "I am very sad about the whole situation and apprehensive of the impending one."

But Armando and Savio Medeira, his assistant, are not letting the gloom hang heavy on the team. "I can't ask the boys to attack all out. That will leave us exposed and if we concede early, it's over. We have to be very careful," the national coach said before slowly trudging off to board the bus.

One thing is for certain. The national team has lost its glamour and swagger after the departure of Bob Houghton. The contrast was stark when the UAE team trooped in as the Indians were leaving the stadium. A full-strength support staff followed a group of strappy-looking men who oozed confidence.

Srecko Katanec's team has reasons to have a spring in their step. They have a 3-0 cushion. In contrast, India could very well be on the cusp of yet another debacle.

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