New Delhi: India’s last group match against Cameroon has been reduced to a no-contest, well, almost.
The organisers were hoping that the final round-robin tie would hold more than just a passing interest and a place in the final would be at stake.
But with India and Cameroon already sealing their places in the Nehru Cup title round on Sunday, the “final” before the final just does not seem to hold the same significance.
The situation could be upsetting for those in charge of ticket sales but ideal for the two coaches, especially Wim Koevermans. With India being the underdogs, the coach is expected to use the ‘inconsequential’ encounter to his own benefit by trying to gauge the strength of the rivals before the final.
Cameroon, by all means, are the best team in the tournament, a fact that was admitted by Koevermans. “Cameroon are a very strong side… they are capable of playing good football and that’s already evident,” said the Dutch coach on Thursday.
“They are not just a physically strong side but a good footballing side in all respects,” said Koevermans, who, however, hastened to add that his boys were ready for any challenge.
Both teams would surely like to keep their cards close to their chest in the group league match. Koevermans hinted he would field some of his reserve players for Friday’s match though he did not name his team.
“We play Cameroon twice and obviously the final stays the most important one. So, tomorrow gives us a chance to probably have a look at the bench more than other days. But we are yet to finalise the team,” he said.
Indians are further handicapped by the lack of spectators’ response in the present edition of the tournament. In 2007 and 2009, the Nehru Cup was played in front of a packed Ambedkar Stadium.
Even the then Indian coach, Bob Houghton, said he would like to play all India’s matches in Delhi as it helps his team to perform better in international matches.
Shifted to the gigantic Nehru Stadium, the tournament is now being played in front of empty stands.
The largest turnout was in the India-Maldives match, which was less than 7,000 people. Not even 5,000 spectators turned up to cheer the home team when India and Syria, the two finalists of the last two editions, played in the opening match.