The last time India played Nepal in the SAFF Championship in Kathmandu, he watched from his residence in Goa. An untimely injury in the Preparatory Camp in Bangalore prior to the Championship had ruled Clifford Miranda out.
The curly haired winger shakes his head. “It was frustrating,” he opines. “But this time I’m available for selection.”
“We are taking the Nepal match very seriously. Every match is important. We never underestimate any opponent,” Miranda adds. “Nepal’s display in SAFF Championship showed how strong they are,” he maintained.
Even as everyone in Siliguri prefers to talk about India’s “inexperienced” defence, Central Defender Arnab Mondal isn’t willing to buy the logic. “Philippines were such a strong Team. Most of their Players play in Europe which includes Bundesliga Club Eintracht Frankfurt defender Stephan Markus Schrock,” he quips.
“It’s true that the back-four played together for the first time. But never did we go out of shape and all throughout, we backed each other,” he states. “Nepal know us as much we know them. It will be an interesting battle. Off-course we will play to win but every Team has the same aim when they take the Field.”
“There’s no denying that there’s an added confidence in the Team especially after our display against Philippines. We should have won it but that’s Football,” he argues.
Goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury complements Arnab. “Aiborlang Khongjee and Arnab (Mondal) did a splendid job as did Gurjinder (Kumar) and Denzil (Franco). Raju (Gaikwad) was also so composed as and when he came on as a substitute,” he echoes.
“There was such a huge turnout when India played Philippines. We expect a full-house against Nepal,” he quipped.
Aiborlang Khongjee, the 475th Player to have played for India informs: “Arnab and myself talk to each other a lot. It helps and it did against Philippines. Arnab nods.
“The entire contingent is working hard and planning for our next outcome. The Coach is just working tirelessly,” Clifford informs.
Clifford, however, refused to divulge any strategy for the Match. “We will stick to the instructions. Surely an early goal will give us an advantage. But it’s also the other way round. A confident Nepal will also be planning for us.”
“The present National team setup is all about taking responsibilities. Everyone is old enough to understand what his responsibility is. As long as we execute it, results will come out way.”
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)