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Bangla test for Indians

New Delhi: Languishing at 154 in the Fifa rankings, Wim Koevermans’ India will have a chance to redeem a little of their lost prestige when they play Bangladesh in a friendly in Margao, on Wednesday.

Till recently, India were always regarded favourites against Bangladesh and mostly managed to defeat them. Things, however, have changed.

In the last SAFF Cup Championship in Nepal, India were lucky to draw 1-1 with Bangladesh. It was almost over for India, before Sunil Chetri struck a remarkable goal from a freekick deep into the added time. Bangladesh, however, hotly contested the referee’s decision to award India a free kick just outside the area.

The upward graph of Bangladesh football was once again evident in the IFA Shield, when Dhanmondi Club from across the border reached the final, defeating East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on the way. They lost the final to Mohammedan Sporting via the penalty shootout.

Bangladesh captain Mamun Islam has gone on record saying that Dhanmondi’s performance has added to the national team’s confidence.

The Indian team have a few new faces like Balwant Singh and Amrinder Singh and their performance would be watched keenly.

Not many fresh talents have surfaced since 2011, when India reached the final rounds of the Asian Cup under Bob Houghton. In addition, India did not do too well in friendly matches in the last couple of years.

Koevermans said his team was ready for Bangladesh, currently ranked 164th in the Fifa list. “We played against Bangladesh in Saff and it was a very exciting game. It was frustrating for them because we equalised in the added time. I expect tomorrow to be a huge competitive game and we want to win.”

India would, once again, be dependent on their skipper and striker Chetri. The striker is known for raising the level of his game in international outings. Moreover, he is having an impressive season with Bengaluru FC.

Like India, Bangladesh too have a Dutch coach, Lodewijk Darius de Kruif. “We are here to play good football. We want to win and need to take our chances and hope for a good result,” Kruif said.

Kick-off at 6 pm (live on Ten Action)