Thursday, August 21, 2008

India thrash Tajikistan to win AFC Challenge Cup 08-09

Sunil Chhetri hat-trick, India on Wednesday thrashed defending champions Tajikistan 4-1 in the final of AFC Challenge Cup football tournament and qualified for the Asian Cup after a hiatus of 24 years.
Playing one of their best matches in the recent times, India outplayed its Central Asian rival in all departments of the game in the thrilling summit clash of the eight-nation Asia's second tier competition whose winners get a direct entry to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Doha. Chhetri, who had said before the match that the summit clash would be the most important 90 minutes of his career, stole the show on Wednesday by scoring in the ninth, 19th and 75th minutes, and giving opposition defence a torrid time with numerous solo runs.
Inspirational India captain Baichung Bhutia added another goal for the hosts in the 23rd minute under floodlights at the Ambedkar Stadium to give India their third entry in the continental elite stage. India last played in the Asian Cup in 1984 under Yugoslav coach Ciric Milovan with players of calibre like Shabbir Ali, Subrata Bhattacharya, Krishanu Dey and Prasanta Banerjee in the team.
Before that they were runners up in 1964 in Israel where the hosts defeated India in the final. However, India on Wednesday perhaps found inspiration from the Nehru Cup victory last August at the same ground. They must also be thanking the weather Gods as incessant rains in Hyderabad had forced the AFC to shift the match from there to Ambedkar Stadium which again looked festive with spectators almost filling up the 20000 capacity stadium.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

AFC Challenge Cup Final postponed!

India, who are the host of the AFC Challenge Cup 2008, will play Tajikistan in the Final! The tournament was being held in and around Hyderabad. But due to the hectic schedule of the tournament and an dearth in quality grounds in Hyderabad and also due to heavy rain during this time of the year, the condition of the pitch didnot satisfy the AFC officials.
The AFC President’s Cup and Challenge Cup Organising Committee inspected the Gachibowli Stadium on Saturday and found the pitch unplayable after incessant rains deteriorated the ground surface.
AFC will conduct an inspection of New Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium on Sunday before announcing a fresh date and venue for both the matches. Both these matches would be played on August 13, if AFC finds the Ambedkar Stadium suitable to host the games. Hosts India will take on defending champions Tajikistan in the final while DPR Korea will face Myanmar in the third-place playoff.
A team of AFC officials will visit Delhi tomorrow to inspect ground conditions there and confirm the venue

Houghton works a miracle!

Two years ago, when Robert Douglas Houghton flew down to New Delhi to appear for an interview for the job of India’s chief football coach, the national team was in complete shambles.
The team at that time had just conceded nine goals in two matches against Japan and Yemen. The coach was shown the door while the captain constantly talked about quitting international football.
Today, the scenario is totally different. Never before in the recent past, has the Indian team looked like a happy, well-knit family as it is now. The success of the last 12 months has brought a sea change in the attitude of the players and the team in general.
While the majority feels that Bob Houghton remains the driving force behind the team, the British coach is too humble to accept the compliment.
“The consistency level of the team is certainly high,” he said. “It has come because of two reasons.
“Firstly, I have got a bunch of highly committed boys. They are a wonderful lot. Secondly, for the first time after coming to India, I got these boys together for a long period. It is almost like a club team now, which remains together for the entire season.”
Like everyone else, Houghton, too, was delighted to reach the third straight final, but did not forget to sound a warning. “Things are going fine but to improve really and consistently, one really needs to restructure the domestic football,” he said.
Footballers, on the other hand, are grateful to Houghton for showing them the way to come of out of the rut.
“We were stuck in our own little world, before Houghton came,” said Sunil Chhetri, whose memorable goal took India to the final of the AFC Challenge Cup on Thursday.
“Technically, he turned us into a far better lot but what is more important is that he taught us to dream big,” the diminutive striker said.
Former India captain and the manager of the team, Pradeep Chowdhury said, “we had 11 names in the panel, but he was at the top of our list because of his experience and impressive track record. We were confident that given some time, he would deliver the goods.”
But will the AIFF ask the coach to continue till 2011 now that he has managed to take the team to the final rounds of the Asian Cup? Given the track record of the national federation, all one can do is to keep fingers crossed.

Source: The Telegraph