The AFC Asian Cup 2011 is in full swing and the tournament kicked-off with hosts Qatar going down to Uzbekistan in the opening match on Friday. But the real highlight for all Indian football fans will take place tomorrow, when our very own “Bhangra Boys” take on mighty Australia!
The Indian team will be playing the Asian continental championship for the first time since 1984 and our boys have been drawn into a tough group with heavyweights Australia, South Korea and Bahrain.
The match against Australia will mark an end to a long wait for the lovers of Indian football. Not only the wait for Team India qualifying and playing a major tournament, but also the impatience we had to bear with since knowing that we made it to the Asian extravaganza!
I’m really looking forward to the see the Indian team locking horns with the stars of Asia and to see our boys gaining from this invaluable exposure! The last few days have been really gruelling with the tension and the heart rate intensifying! But what can we expect from the Indian team? I must say that the expectations among some Indian fans are quite high and there are even people expecting India to clinch the title!
We have to be realistic about the chances of Team India at the finals! People need to realise that Indian football is still on a long journey with many steps to take in the coming years! The AFC Asian Cup 2011 is just another step forward on this long journey and it will benefit our footballers to play the top nations in Asia. India is not at the same level like Australia, Japan or South Korea and therefore we are there to learn and to see how far we have progressed in the last few years.
The Socceroos from “down under” are considered as the top favourites to win the AFC Asian Cup and the Aussies will be looking for a convincing start, in the Group C opener on Monday. Our Indian team is really looking forward to the match and all players are focused on the game. The only concern to the Indian camp is the fitness of captain Baichung Bhutia, who is still suffering from his calf muscle injury. Baichung didn’t play a competitive match for a long time and things are not looking good for the talismanic striker. He might be even forced to pull out of the squad. Bob Houghton and the team management are expected to take a decision on Baichung’s status today evening. Mohammed Rafi would be the replacement for Baichung, if the captain pulls out from the playing squad.
Sushil Kumar Singh will most likely replace Baichung in the starting line-up, while the other ten slots would remain unchanged to the recent starting elevens.
The Indian starting XI is likely to look like this:
Subrata Pal; Irungbam Surkumar Singh, Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, Anwar, Deepak Kumar Mondal; Steven Benedic Dias, Climax Lawrence, Naduarambil Pappachan Pradeep, Syed Rahim Nabi; Sunil Chhetri, Sushil Kumar Singh
I hope to see many Indian fans in the stadium – not only against the Aussies, but also when we face Bahrain and South Korea. Qatar has a huge Indian population and Team India needs a lot of vocal and physical support! The AFC Asian Cup 2011 is a showcase for Indian football! Fans are an integral part of the game and the image of a nation is not only created by the performance on the pitch, but especially by the support for a team! Fans cheering and supporting their team – regardless to the result – do automatically create a positive image for a team, a nation and its football! Fans can boost the team when they turn up in masses for the matches and chant from the stands; but they can also demoralize and demolish the image of a whole nation, if they prefer to stay away from the stadium!
MY APPEAL TO EACH AND EVERYONE READING THIS:
GET UP AND COME TO THE STADIUM! SUPPORT YOUR NATION! SUPPORT TEAM INDIA! LET US MAKE EACH MATCH A HOME GAME FOR OUR BOYS! CHAK DE INDIA!
Yalla Asia, Team India is back!
+++ UPDATE | 11.00 CET: Mohammed Rafi will replace suspended Sushil Kumar Singh +++
+++ UPDATE | 08.00 CET: Sushil Kumar Singh will miss the first two matches. The team management and Sushil himself were unaware of the suspension. The AFC informed the AIFF in April 2010, but seems like they didn’t inform the team management. +++