New Delhi : The 2-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan Sunday seems to have given India the much-needed confidence ahead of two key matches that will decide whether the defending champions would retain the Nehru Cup football tournament they won two years ago here at the Ambedkar Stadium.
India play Sri Lanka Wednesday and both teams will be looking for a victory to stay alive in the tournament as each has three points from two games.
While India will be going into Wednesday’s match after a victory while the Sri Lankans will have to get over their demoralising 0-4 drubbing by Syria, runners-up last time. Interestingly, India lost to Lebanon 0-1 whereas the island nation stunned the West Asian team 4-3.
On paper, Sri Lanka might look weak, but India coach Bob Houghton would not like to take them lightly and pay a price like Lebanon did. All the same he can take some positives from the victory over Kyrgyzstan and make sure nothing goes wrong against Sri Lanka for want of effort.
The return of Renedy Singh on the left made a positive difference to the midfield, but comeback men Dipak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli were far from inspiring. The two veteran defenders, pushing 30, appeared dragging their feet against Kyrgyzstan. They can’t afford to be lax against the speedy Sri Lankans.
In the midfield, Climax Lawrence is the weak link while newcomer Anthony Pereira has to be alert and forthright.
A win against Sri Lanka will brighten India’s chances of making the final and Houghton is keen on gaining full points from the match.
“Sri Lanka’s win over Lebanon has opened up the whole competition. If we could beat the Sri Lankans, the boys will fight it out with the Syrians,” he said.
The two-day rest between matches should give India the edge as Sri Lanka will be playing their third match after only a day’s rest.
India (from): Subrata Paul, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury; Mahesh Gawli, Gourmangi Singh, Anwar, Surkumar Singh, Dipak Mondal, Sameer Naik; Climax Lawrence, Steven Dias, Renedy Singh, Anthony Pereira, Mehrajuddin Waddoo, Syed Rahim Nabi, N.P. Pradeep; Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri, Sushil Singh, Abhishek Yadav.
Sri Lanka (from): H.M.A. Kumara, Asanka Viraj, R. Ratnayake, B.A.R. Jayawilal; Sanjaya Pradeep Kumara, W.D.R.D. Ruwanthilake, A.B. Warakagoda, Ramlan Raheem, Dimudu Hettiarachchi, Tharaka Silva; Chathura Gunaratne, Raumy Mohideen, Mohamed Asmeer, Chathura Maduranga, Tharusha Rangana, S. Satheeswaran; S. Sanjeev, M.N.M. Issadeen, E.B. Channa.