The Telegraph
Sunday , August 17 , 2014
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Task cut out for Wim & Chetri

Sunil Chetri

New Delhi: India and Pakistan will renew their rivalry on the football pitch after a gap of nine years when their Asian Games-bound under-23 teams meet for a friendly tie at Bangalore’s Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) Stadium on Sunday.

While Wim Koevermans’s India are expected to field three senior footballers, including skipper Sunil Chetri as per the Asian Games rules, Pakistan have only one player above the age of 23 in the squad which landed on Friday night.

The last time the two neighbouring nations were engaged in a bilateral series was in 2005 when Sukhwinder Singh’s India visited Pakistan for a three-match contest. After a draw in Quetta and a narrow victory in Peshawar, Indians were routed in Lahore.

For Koevermans, Sunday’s tie is definitely going to be more than just a preparatory match before the Asiad. Under him, the senior team have not really excelled in the last one year and even lost their regional supremacy in the SAFF Championships.

Recently, the under-23 team held a fortnight long camp in Czech Republic and lost a couple of matches against lower division sides there. The Dutchman would certainly be eager to put up a better show in front of home crowd.

India, placed 150 in the Fifa rankings, are still the favourites against Pakistan, who are not more a soccer power as they used to be in the 50s and 60s immediately after the partition. Their Bahrain based coach Mohammed Shalman Mubarak was appointed last August after the unceremonious exit of the Serbian trainer. Mubarak would be heavily dependent on his captain and striker Mohammed Kaleemullah, currently the face of Pakistan football.

A man of fine striking ability, Kaleemullah, along with Mohammed Adil, play for top Kyrgyzstan side, Dordoi Bishek and has made quite an impact there. However, his counterpart, Sunil Chetri is also a prolific scorer and always excels with the national side.

He is likely to have Robin Singh as his striking partner. Both are currently based in Bangalore and play for I League champions Benguluru FC.