The AIFF has recently embarked on a programme -- they want to make sure that India play stronger teams on FIFA international friendly dates in a bid to improve their miserable world ranking of 166.
After losing 0-2 to 154 ranked Singapore in an away match in October 2012, the Indians were more hopeful of salvaging something on home soil in a friendly against 152 ranked Palestine.
But despite taking the lead twice in the game, the Indians went down 2-4 against a more experienced and organised Palestine side.
Here are five things we learnt from the entertaining match.
For one half, Syed Rahim Nabi justified the tag of best Indian player
Nabi was simply everywhere for India. And he is so versatile that the Palestinians simply couldn't cope with him. They didn't know where he was playing — left-back, left-wing, center midfield...
Nabi also proved his value with a thumping header to restore India's lead.
But the Mohun Bagan player just didn't turn up in the second half. He gave away a vital penalty with a clumsy tackle, and lost the ball which resulted in the fourth goal for Palestine. With all his good work undone, he was out of position — opting to bomb forward rather than protecting his midfield.
Everyone wants an assist
It's often the case in Indian football. Go to schools, amateur leagues or the I-League: every Indian player, rather than looking for a simpler option, will opt to play a high-risk through ball. It was surprising to see so many high crosses being pumped in from deep free-kicks. Sunil Chhetri is a good player — but he doesn't have Peter Crouch's height.
Even with India trailing, there were moments when they played safe... keeping the ball for a string of 10 odd passes — and still managing to dissect the Palestine defence. That's the way to go.
But more often than not, every time a player received the ball, he went for a cross, a sliding pass or a high lob. This gave back possession to the Palestine. They didn't even have to work for it. The Indians just gave them the ball.
Keep it simple, boys!
Why do India play so badly in the last quarter of the match? It's not about giving up the game... it's about just not having enough energy to hold on to a lead or a tie.
Wim Koevermans said before the match that despite being friendlies, international matches are always 'high intensity'. And India were undone because the Palestinians kept up this intensity till the last minute.
As for the Indians, they were completely run over.
If you can't defend, you can't attack
India's center backs were terrible. It may seem harsh, but the way Ashraf Nu'man tricked his way past Gouramangi Moirangthem for his hat-trick was proof of where we stand.
The Indian defence must actually go and thank goalkeeper Sandip Nandy for saving them numerous times. Nandy was quick off his lines, maybe a bit too quick, but managed to thwart Palestine from making the scoreline embarrassing.
If Gouramangi, Denzil Franco and Raju Gaikwad are India's best defenders, then not much can be said about half the midfield not pushing forward on the counter—cause they're stuck in two minds — defend or attack?
Too much creative freedom
Koevermans must devise a strategy which makes it clear how much creative freedom is allowed to every player. He must do the same when it comes to choosing who is allowed to roam from his position. Yesterday, it was not possible to track the Indian team's positioning, and one of the reasons was that everyone wanted to do everything.
A stricter, tighter mentality needs to be followed.
For example, only the dribblers need carry the ball forward. Yesterday, everyone was trying tricks and flicks. When a good dribbler like Alwyn George went forward, it resulted in a goal from the rebound. But when Mehtab Hossain tried to carry it forward, he ended up losing possession.
More discipline in player duties is certainly an area that needs work on.
First Published On : Feb 7, 2013 15:37 IST