| ANCHERI: Fit to play
New Delhi: A mouth watering clash is expected Wednesday at the Ambedkar Stadium, when upbeat India take on determined Uzbeks in their second international friendly. Both coaches would like to end their last preparatory match before the Busan Asian Games on a winning note.
Since Stephen Constantine took over charge, India have played seven matches, won four, drawn two and lost one. The only loss was against Jamaica at Watford and Constantine described the Jamaicans as the best team India have faced so far.
He said Uzbekistan were a balanced and compact side and felt they were slightly better than the Asian teams India had played against in the LG Cup last month.
Constantine suffering from migraine had a CT scan done Tuesday and attended practice after two daysí rest. Stressing on rotation of the players, he said he would experiment with a number of options with his squad. Going by his methods, he intended to give a chance to the players who missed action in the previous match, which India won 2-0.
He also pointed out that Jo Paul Ancheri, recovering from a rib injury, will play in midfield and Rajat Ghosh Dastidar likely to replace Naseem Akhtar under the bar. Mahesh Gawli and Satish Bharti who were rested three days ago, will also be in action. K. Ajayan is likely to replace Rennedy Singh on the left while Tomba Singh may man the right pocket of the midfield in place of Sashthi Duley.
The Salgaocar striker Alex Ambrose is having knee trouble and will be rested. Praveen Kumar may also find himself on the bench with the coach keen on letting Abhishek Yadav join captain Bhaichung Bhutia upfront.
Uzbekistan, ranked 73rd in the world and 10th in Asia, are thirsting for revenge. Vyacheslav Ivanov, media manager of coach Ravshan Khaydarov, blamed it on acclimatisation and jet-lag problems for the teamís poor show. He said they were fitter and faster now and wanted to win.
The Uzbeks will play in the 4-3-3 formation. Their key players are strikers Bahtiyor Hamidullaev and Shukhratbek Mirkoldisrhayev and left-half Ruslan Vagapov and playmaker Ottabek Pirmatov. All the Uzbek players are from first division clubs.
Meanwhile, the Uzbek officials revealed that former Mohun Bagan striker Igor Shkvirin, who was top-scorer in the 1999-2000 edition of the National Football League, has opted for coaching as a career.
He has completed an Asian Football Federation course and is now working as an assistant coach at the famous Pakjtakor Club in Tashkent.