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Rediff.com  » Sports » Nehru Cup: India hoping beat Nepal and seal final berth

Nehru Cup: India hoping beat Nepal and seal final berth

August 27, 2012 18:15 IST

Closing in on a final berth after a couple of convincing victories, the Indian football team will have to guard against complacency when it takes on the tournament's whipping boys Nepal in the Nehru Cup in Delhi on Tuesday.

Under the tutelage of Wim Koevermans India registered easy victories over Syria (2-1) and Maldives (3-0).

Victory over Nepal will certainly ensure their passage to the final of a tournament they won in the last two editions, in 2007, when it was revived after a long hiatus, and 2009, under then coach Bob Houghton.

The same can't be said about the Himalayan nation which was battered by Cameroon (0-5) on Sunday night, two days after suffering a 1-2 defeat to Maldives.

Francis Fernandes gets past Syria's Alaa Alshbbli in the first match of the Nehru Cup against SyriaAnother acid test awaits Nepal as they run into an in-form team, led admirably by Portugal-returned striker Sunil Chhetri who has already found the net thrice, including a double strike against the Maldives.

What will make Nepal's job tougher is the likes of Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda, Anthony Pereira and Gouramangi Singh who looked in good touch in the preceding matches.

Another positive for the two-time defending champions is that goalkeeper Subrata Paul has not been breached even once, and he will look to keep the slate clean against the minnows, ranked above India in the current FIFA rankings.

Despite the feel good factor in the Indian camp after the two victories, the players have their feet firmly on the ground.

They are confident, but not over-confident.

"There's no point in thinking about future matches. We face Nepal in the next match and a win will take us to the final. It's, perhaps, the most important match for us," Nabi, who had a great game against the Maldives, said.

The others also think alike, including Dutchman Koevermans.

"You say it, I don't," he said when asked if his team is already in the final, at the post-match press conference the other day.

"Don't quote me. I haven't said it. No, we are not yet in the final," he added.

The coach, as well as his wards, feel that "step by step, match by match" is the way to go.

Considering the scenario, it will be interesting to see if Koevermans prefers to experiment with his team on Tuesday, maybe by giving younger players like Alwyn George an opportunity.

His decision to go with the same combination that played in the tournament opener against Syria paid dividends in the team's next match, but one can't rule out the possibility of having at least one different player against Nepal.

It also remains to be seen if Nirmal Chhetri is fielded, two days after taking a blow on his shin.

Nepal coach Krishna Thapa wouldn't have imagined finding his team in this sort of situation at the start of the tournament. But he is confident of staging a fightback, nevertheless.

"The level of their (India's) performance is going up with every match. Against Maldives, India were too good. But that doesn't mean Nepal can't beat India. In fact, both the teams are of the same standard," Thapa said.