By Shrikant Shankar
In a second-leg World Cup qualifier, India came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against UAE at the Ambedkar stadium in New Delhi on Thursday, but Emirates coach Srecko Katanec is not impressed with Indian soccer.
In the post-match press conference, Katanec said, “India have good strikers and in these conditions they are dangerous, but without any disrespect to them they are not world class. They are nowhere in the same class as Japan and South Africa.”
Rain had played spoilsport at Ambedkar stadium and Katanec said it was tough for the players. “It is impossible to play normally in these conditions and you have to adapt. The crowd pushed the Indians and they played with a lot of spirit to come back,” said the coach from Slovenia.
India may have lost 5-2 on aggregate (they lost 3-0 in the away leg at Al Ain), but India coach Armando Colaco was content with the performance of his players.
“The performance is the most important thing, the results will follow. We played very well, we had two plans. Plan A was to pass it around but the conditions did not let us play like that so, we switched to Plan B, which was the long-ball strategy and the crowd was entertained as well,” said Colaco.
“This is a new era in Indian football and the younger players played very well. Dika and Jewel played well and the future of Indian football lies with the younger generation,” he added.
On Thursday, UAE took the lead in the 38th minute much against the run of play. Ahmed Khalil, crossed from the right flank for striker Mohamed Al-Shehhi to head in past Karanjit Singh. In the second half, Ali Al-Wahabi volleyed in to make it 2-0.
“We made two mistakes and UAE scored. Football is like that. But the biggest positive is that we came back from 2-0 down,” said Colaco. Lalrindika Ralte-Jeje Lalpeklua scored the first in the 74th minute and Gourmangi Singh scored the equalizer in added time.
“Jeje is a good strong player and he just needs to make minor adjustments to his game,” Colaco added.
On a four-month contract, Colaco seems to be enjoying his stint with the national side. “I want to stay and if the AIFF and the players are happy then we can build something. I have asked for more international matches and that is how the quality will improve,” the Dempo coach said.
By Shrikant Shankar