The trial run between reigning Nehru Cup champions India and challengers Cameroon was of little help in judging the relative strengths of the two teams which meet again in the final Sunday.
All that the round-robin game Friday did was to provide a hint that India will have to play out of their skins if they have to win the cup for a third successive time.
Just as well, the African giants start favourites, having beaten India in the dress rehearsal 1-0 to gain the psychological advantage.
Cameroon rested nine of the regulars Friday while the Indians benched five, including skipper and striker Sunil Chhetri.
Understandably, the two teams were just going through the motions. All the same, the Indian defence cannot be so lackadaisical in the final. To be fair to the Indians, they looked a lot more organised in the second session and understandably it was difficult to judge the two sides.
Cameroon, who drew their first match against Syria 2-2, were thereafter in a cruise mode. When their star players Kingue Mpondo, Jean-Patrick Abouna and Vigny Merimee return to the fold Sunday Cameroon should be in a different zone altogether.
In the absence of Chhetri, the Indian attack lacked teeth, and his return should make a big difference to them.
The midfield had its share of problems Friday. Without Lenny Rodrigues by his side, Mehtab Hossain looked a bit lost. Francisco Fernandes had a very quiet outing and would like to change things around Sunday.
Diminutive left-back Syed Rahim Nabi, arguably India's player of the tournament, made his trade mark running down the left and he and Clifford Miranda tied the approaching defenders in knots.
Nabi tormented the Cameroon team, repeatedly getting the better of the opposition. But with very little support upfront, his moves went wasted.
Cameroon will have to guard against complacency. After their second-minute goal Friday, they took the hosts lightly and could have paid dearly. Ebanga Bertin's cheeky penalty kick that he muffed reflected the mood in the Cameroon camp -- they obviously don't seem to think very highly of India.
Published Date: Sep 02, 2012 13:57 PM | Updated Date: Sep 02, 2012 13:57 PM