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India confident ahead of Syrian test

August 22, 2007 19:45 IST

Having won two matches in the Nehru Cup football tournament without many hiccups, the Indian team was positive ahead of the 'Syrian test' in Delhi on Thursday.

India toyed with Cambodia in their opening match before winning 6-0 and then got the better of Bangladesh by a solitary goal.

Coach Bob Houghton had said the match against Syria would be a real assessment of where his team stands, as the West Asians, ranked highest among the five participating teams at 112, showed improvement with every outing, outplaying Kyrgyzstan 4-1 on Tuesday.

''It will be a tough game and we have to play our best,'' Houghton said at the team's training session on Wednesday.

''They played a very good game against Kyrgyzstan. They are a strong team, physically and technically,'' he added.

The Englishman, though, was unduly perturbed about the likely result of the match. Instead he expressed confidence about his boys' ability.

''We will play for a win. The boys played well against Bangladesh. We had 32 shots at the Bangladesh goal, which is very good,'' he said.

Captain Baichung Bhutia also said the boys are focused for the big match.

''It will be a big match for us. They [Syrians] are strong physically and they simply outplayed the Kyrgyz yesterday,'' he said.

The good news for India is that attacking midfielder N P Pradeep is back after recovering from the injury he sustained in the Cambodia game. He will be the key to Houghton's scheme of things.

Houghton also plans to start with Clifford Miranda on the left flank instead of Renedy Singh, while young Gouramangi Singh will take the place of Deepak Mondal, who was injured in the Bangladesh match.

Mondal is likely to miss the rest of the tournament.

''The MRI scan result is not conclusive, but our guess is that he will miss the whole tournament,'' the coach said.

Meanwhile, India became the second-ranked team in the five-nation tournament after leaping 11 places to 151st in the latest FIFA rankings.

Kyrgyzstan, which began the tournament as the second highest-ranked side, slipped a place to 153rd.

Syria moved up one spot to 112 while Cambodia (173) and Bangladesh (176) lost three and four slots respectively.