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(FM'09) The Indian Summer.....And Beyond - A Chance To Rewrite History Part III.V

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Sunday 5th May 2013
Almost as quickly as the job had become available, I had decided to throw my name into the mix, and they had decided I was the man for the job, then I had to move for a ten hour flight. Minsk to New Dehli, with a change of flights in Ukraine. The FA had offered to send their plane for me, but I would have lost half a day waiting for it, so it was quicker to jump on a scheduled flight.

I was met and whisked to a city centre hotel, where I met the people who would become my new employers. The South Asian nation of India is the 7th largest in the World by area, and the 2nd most populated on the globe with over a billion citizens, and growing rapidly still. Cricket and Tennis are by far the most popular sports in the country, football competing with hockey for a top three spot. But this nation has never produced a global household name in the Worlds most popular sport.

Now the hierarchy want to push the nation forward, and frankly, that is pretty much the only place India can go in football. As of today, with 208 nations officially ranked by FIFA, this nation sits in 202nd place. Only San Marino, Aruba, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Laos and Somalia are ranked lower by the games Worldwide governing body. We hold just four ranking points right now, and to put that in perspective, current number one ranked nation Italy has 2,119 points.

The FA of India has in fact been part of the problem. The nation that counts Pakistan and Bangladesh as it's most fierce rivals hasn't played a Senior game for over 18 months. When India were predictably, but bravely, beaten by Qatar in October 2011 in the First Round of the Asian Zone Qualifiers for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, the FA then neglected to arrange any Friendly matches. So the only matches the nation played in 2012 were the Qualifiers for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which are played on an Under-23 format. With no football, India lost ranking points that were no longer valid, and tumbled down the rankings. That in turn led to India falling below the threshold to be included in the Preliminary Round Qualifiers for the 2015 Asian Nations Cup, which are in progress right now. That's a terrible mistake to make by an FA that always has been, and still very much is, convinced that there are plenty of young talented footballers amongst their vast population.

At this point, with the domestic season just finishing, there are 924 professional or semi-professional footballers who qualify for India, either solely, or along with another nation. One of my main tasks will be to nurture the nations young footballers. Frankly, that is a job that will be delegated. The age group sides (U-23, U-21, U-20 & U-19) have been neglected almost as badly as the Senior side. Back in 2012, they did take part in the Asian Under-19 Championships, losing to Australia and Kuwait and beating Syria in the tournament held in China.

The nation has a developing domestic game, the Indian National Football League is dominated by two clubs however. Mohun Began and East Bengal are streets ahead of the other ten clubs, and between them they usually hoover up most of Indian footballs young talent. A thriving transfer market sees player regularly move clubs for a extra couple of pounds a week, and not always for the better welfare of their careers. It's not uncommon for players to join less competitive non-League sides who can pay them a little more due to better sponsorship.

The League operates a rule that permits no more than three foreign players per club. For a developing league that is trying to strike a happy balance, it could probably do with being increased to five to allow the clubs to try and attract more marquee players, and for the domestic players to have further opportunities to learn from professionals from nations with greater football development. Several clubs have not bothered with foreign players at all, mostly due to the increased cost. For those that have indulged in foreign players, they mostly come from African nations, Ghana and Nigeria featuring primarily. There is of course a sprinkling of Brazilians, like an Irish Bar, you are never really far from a Brazilian footballer. A few have now spent the five years required to be classed as residents in India, and as such can be called up to play. This is something the Indian FA have not really been in favour of. Well, I can tell you right now, it will be happening. While we are 202nd in the World and not even ranked high enough to take part in the Qualifiers for the Continents major Championship, we will be taking any advantage we can to climb those rankings as quickly as possible.

With that goal in mind, I will be selecting our opponents very carefully. Special attention will be paid to the Rankings and opportunities to move past fellow Asian nations. We will be looking to move up around fifty spots to get alongside the likes of Hong Kong, Vietnam and Bangladesh who were amongst the nations who featured in the Preliminary Qualifying Round. Other nations to find themselves on the outside looking in like ourselves were the likes of Malaysia and The Philippines. We won't be going and chasing games against big nations right now, we'll be looking to match ourselves against nations we think we can beat to try and move forward, and hopefully install a winning mentality.

Something else that the FA haven't really taken a liking to is their players moving abroad. That will also, I hope, start to change. Indian players becoming exposed to football overseas and improving their game would be of huge benefit to us as a nation, and those players that take the leap will find themselves with increased chances to feature in the International squad if they can make the move and get regular football.

Right now, the highest rated player in Indian football is plying his trade in France. 6'4 striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury is a second string player with League Un club AS Saint-Etienne, and is a dual national. He is nowhere near good enough to be coveted by France, and the 19 year old Kolkata born player has been capped seven times at Under-21 level, netting three goals. There is another forward playing further down the levels in France, a defender in Belgium, one of the nations most popular players is making his living in Vietnam, and a defensive midfielder in Italy. It's not like we have nothing at all to work with, otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to come here.

After an overnight in New Dehli, and a press conference to announce my appointment, a meeting with the FA sees the roles for managers of the age group sides filled. Finally, before I board the Indian FA's plane to head back to Belarus for Lokomotiv Minsk's midweek game, we arrange a pair of home Friendly matches for next month, both of which I am confident we can take wins from to get the ball rolling. We will play both matches in Kolkata's 120,000 capacity Salt Lake Stadium, first hosting Sri Lanka (199th) on Saturday 8th June, before stepping it up to face Thailand (115th) on Wednesday 12th June.

Asian nations, much like their African counterparts, are prone to changing their managers often, including almost routinely after major tournaments. With that in mind, my time in India may prove to be short, and from a purely selfish point of view, I am here to attempt to enhance my own footballing reputation. If India's football fortunes improve as a direct result, even better.
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Welcome,

This save is now almost two years old in real time, and just short of five years old in game time. After success in the original part, where the fortunes of Northern Irish minnow club Lurgan Celtic were drastically improved, I moved across the Irish Sea to try and perform a similar feat with Ayr United in Scotland's third tier. Sadly, that didn't quite go to plan, as we were denied promotion with defeats in the Promotion Playoff Semi-Finals in successive years, also denied success in the League Challenge Cup with a defeat to Raith Rovers in the Final. A third crack at promotion was dealt a blow when the Scottish season didn't click on to the new campaign after 2011/12, and I made the move to Eastern Europe, where I am now in charge of second tier club Lokomotiv Minsk, where we have three wins from four matches in the early stages of the 2013 season. If you have not read the progress of the save, you can catch up of course if you wish, the links are included below.....

Part#1
Part#2
Part#3

Now I have accepted an offer to dip my toe into the International game after previously rejecting offers from Netherlands Antilles and Liechtenstein. This thread will be updated as and when we reach International Windows, including squad announcements, match reports and anything else that impacts on the International Football fortunes of India. Grateful thanks to FMS stalwart writer @CFuller who used this method to seperate a joint save previously on these boards, and gave his permission when I asked if he would mind me replicating it. Enjoy the story, and as always, feel free to ask any questions you may have.

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Edited by neilhoskins77

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Wednesday 15th May 2013
The Indian FA have asked me to name a Captain and Vice Captain going forward. With no squad selection made as yet, there seems little point in rocking the boat right now, so I leave 34 year old Mohammedan SC midfielder Climax Lawrence in the role as skipper, and 33 year old SC Goa centre back Deepak Mondal as his deputy. The two have 40 caps experience between them, but may find competition to keep their places.

Meanwhile, our FIFA World Ranking of 202nd hasn't changed this month, with our points remaining at four, which leaves us seven behind the nation above us, Cambodia, and nine points behind our next opponents, Sri Lanka who are 199th. The other opponent in that double header, Thailand, have moved up three spots and now sit in 112th place.

Friday 31st May
I will name an International squad for the first time this weekend, the announcement due to be made on Sunday, but pushed back until late evening time as I do have the small matter of a Minsk Derby to take care of with Lokomotiv. With the Friendly matches against Sri Lanka and Thailand now just over a week away, I will have the luxury of an injury free National Pool to draw my squad from.

I'm not going to pretend that the country is waiting on tenterhooks for my first squad announcement, but the sports media of this hugely populated nation have certainly enjoyed speculating what I might do with the squad for my opening couple of games. While I am giving nothing away to the media, I can let you all know that the squad of twenty six will include some experience, some recalled faces, some new young faces, and some players who might not be ready for International football just yet, but that I am keen to involve their cement their future as Indian Internationals. There will be plenty of new caps to be handed out over the two matches.

Sunday 2nd June 2013
With business done for the day in Minsk, I get in touch with the press team in New Dehli to pass them the information they have been waiting for, my squad announcement for next week's pair of Friendly matches in Kolkata against Sri Lanka and Thailand. With a two and a half hour time difference between Minsk and New Dehli, it was getting on for late evening when the announcement was made................

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Senior Squad for Friendly Internationals vs Sri Lanka - (H) 8/6/13 & Thailand - (H) 12/6/13

| Name                           | Position| Club                  | Height  | Age     | Value   | Caps | Goals |

| Subrata Pal                    | GK      | East Bengal           | 6'0"    | 26      | £20K    |   8  |   0   |
| Jasbir Singh                   | GK      | Clachnacuddin (SCO)   | 6'0"    | 22      | -       |   0  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain               | GK      | Mohun Bagan           | 6'1"    | 20      | £4K     |   1  |   0   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Nirmal Chetri                  | D RC    | United SC             | 5'7"    | 22      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Azadur Barman                  | D L     | Vasco SC              | 5'8"    | 20      | £1K     |   1  |   0   |
| Paramjit Kumar                 | D L     | Mohun Bagan           | 5'7"    | 19      | £28K    |   0  |   0   |
| Deepak Mondal                  | D C     | Vasco SC              | 5'10"   | 33      | -       |  23  |   3   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju     | D C     | East Bengal           | 6'1"    | 26      | £6K     |   9  |   1   |
| James Dissiramah               | D C     | Mumbai FC             | 5'10"   | 29      | £5K     |   0  |   0   |
| Francisco Bhowmick             | D C     | Fukien (HKG)          | 5'10"   | 17      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Ajay Bailleux                  | D/WB/M R| Mohun Bagan           | 5'10"   | 29      | -       |  10  |   0   |
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| Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep | D/AM C  | Mohun Bagan           | 5'7"    | 30      | £18K    |  24  |  10   |
| William Jidayi                 | DM, M RC| Salò (ITA)            | 6'2"    | 28      | £2K     |   8  |   1   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo              | DM, M C | Viva Kerala           | 5'11"   | 29      | -       |   6  |   0   |
| Climax Lawrence                | M C     | Dempo                 | 5'9"    | 34      | -       |  17  |   0   |
| Steven Dias                    | AM R    | Mohun Bagan           | 5'10"   | 29      | £1K     |   3  |   0   |
| Clifford Miranda               | AM L    | Salgaocar             | 5'11"   | 30      | -       |   3  |   0   |
| Reisangmi Vasum                | AM LC   | Viva Kerala           | 5'8"    | 24      | -       |   0  |   0   |
| Sabri Gharbi                   | AM C    | East Bengal           | 5'7"    | 25      | £2K     |   4  |   0   |
| Aman Verma                     | AM/F C  | Stirling Albion (SCO) | 5'11"   | 25      | -       |   2  |   1   |
| Gautam Roy                     | AM/F C  | Vannes Olympique (FRA)| 6'1"    | 18      | £16K    |   0  |   0   |
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| Sunil Chetri                   | ST      |Hoang Anh Gia Lai (VIE)| 5'5"    | 28      | £3K     |  21  |  15   |
| Yakubu Yusif                   | ST      | Salgaocar             | 5'10"   | 34      | £4K     |   0  |   0   |
| Chidi Edeh                     | ST      | Mahindra Utd          | 5'11"   | 26      | £22K    |   6  |   2   |
| Edu                            | ST      | JCT                   | 6'1"    | 30      | £9K     |   0  |   0   |
| Tapan Janssens                 | ST      | La Louvière (BEL)     | 5'11"   | 17      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 2nd June 2013
While I appreciate that these players are all of course, major household names, maybe it would be a good idea if I gave you all some information on the players I have selected for this double header of Friendly matches. But first some quick statistics. This squad shows a massive thirteen changes from India's last squad selection, though that match against Qatar was twenty months ago now. The squad features ten potential debutants, and seven players who play their football outside of India. Of the remaining nineteen players, eight play for one of the nations top two clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, while only the two players selected from the Viva Kerala club still play in India, but not in the top tier National Football League. Of the 26 players selected, only five have reached double figures for caps in a squad that has an average age of 25.8 years old. Let's put a little more meat on the bones for you with this squad selection......

Goalkeepers
Three keepers, all of very similar quality levels, and given that one of them is currently playing non-League football in Scotland, and the other two are first choice for India's top two domestic clubs, that says an awful lot. Subrata Pal and Mohammed Hossain both had really good domestic seasons, but each has the one quality I don't like in my goalkeepers, they are both rated highly in eccentricity. That is something that Jasbir Singh does not bring. The British/Indian is something of a 'Steady Eddie' in a Clachnacuddin side that already contains a New Zealand Under-19 International. His contract with the Scottish side expires at the end of the month, and reports are linking him with a move south of the border to the Coca-Cola League Two, with either Morecambe, or newly promoted Rushden & Diamonds. He previously failed to impress in England with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Shrewsbury Town, though he did feature as a regular for Hyde United in the Blue Square North in 2009/10, before being ousted the following season and eventually moving up to Scotland.

Defenders
Two for each position in the back four are selected, so lets start at right back. In a position where we don't possess a lot of quality or depth, the pick of the bunch is without doubt 29 year old Ajay Bailleux. However, he usually operates as a right winger for Mohun Bagan, a demonstration of the lack of quality we have. Still, with my tactics encouraging the full backs to get forward in support of the wingers, he may thrive. His deputy is 22 year old Nirmal Chetri, considerably more defensive minded, and newly back in the top tier with United SC after a very good season in non-League with Pune FC.

On the opposite side of the back four, we have quite a lot of players, but they are almost entirely young, inexperienced, and with similar attributes and levels. Azadur Barman was another player who was outstanding in non-League, in his case with Viva Kerala, and has earned a move into the top tier, Vasco paying £8,000 for him. Only 20 years old now, he was Mohun Bagan's regular left back at just sixteen, playing over 50 League matches for them, though often seen as a weak link in their side at that time, he still won his first International cap before his 17th birthday, and has two League Champions medals, as well as a Super Cup to his name. Next in the queue is Mohun Bagan's new left back, 19 year old Paramjit Kumar has just signed for them for £28,000 from Dempo SC after a decent season apiece with them, and previously Air India before their relegation. For this level, he is actually a pretty decent looking player who I believe will be a squad regular unless others improve significantly.

Onto the middle of the back four, and we start with the squads current Vice-Captain and veteran, Deepak Mondal. Prone to changing his club with increasing regularity, Mondal is now 33 years old, and has just joined Vasco on a Free Transfer after a season out of the top flight with SC Goa where he found the net five times. Unfortunately, I don't think a move back into the National Football League is going to be enough to extend his International career too far into the future. One of the reasons for that will be the addition to the National Pool of Ghana born current Mumbai FC skipper, James Dissiramah, who may soon be leaving for East Bengal. The 29 year old had never played Senior football before arriving in India, and now just a few months after getting his paperwork to become a citizen, he is set for his International debut. One of the best defenders in the country, and will make his debut for his newly adopted nation during this double header. Next up is 26 year old Manju Nanjangud Shivananju, who I think will have to get used to just being called Manju. A regular in the defence of East Bengal for the last three years since his £9,000 transfer from SC Goa, he brings a bit of much needed height into our back four, and has been noted as a very consistent player for his club, which he hopes will allow him to move into double figures for Indian caps over the coming week or so. At the other end of the spectrum is the final centre back selected in the squad, 17 year old Francisco Bhowmick, who I can absolutely assure you will win his first cap against either Sri Lanka or Thailand. Because he's a superb prospect and brings next level quality to our squad? No, sadly not. The answer is much more political than that. Bhowmick was born and raised in Hong Kong to a family with an Indian bloodline. He is a Dual National, and frankly, he is going to be potentially too good for us to lose from our National Pool, especially to Hong Kong who we hope to be competing with and surpassing over the coming months and years. So yes, he will become the first to be capped before he is ready to secure his availability to us in the future. He may not appear regularly in near future squads, with his development likely to come with the age group sides as far as International progress in concerned. From a club perspective, he is on the fringes of Fukien Athletic Club's squad, but they have just been relegated from the Hong Kong First Division, and after only a few appearances they look likely to move his wages off their books and allow him to find a new club, non-League side Kowloon City District Recreation & Sports Council the only club currently showing any major interest.

Midfielders/Wingers
Into the midfield, and starting with our more defensive midfield players. Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, who is more commonly known as N.P Pradeep, which does make him sound like a cricketer, is the current Mohun Bagan Captain. With a pair of League Titles and a Super Cup win to his name, not to mention ten goals in 24 caps for India, the 30 year old is widely regarded as one of the best players in the country, notching 8 goals and 15 assists in 34 games in all competitions last season. So you might be surprised to learn that he may not be a first choice in our midfield. For that, he can thank the player who is probably the stand out player for India currently, 28 year old William Jidayi. Born in Italy's east coast city of Ravenna, he left his hometown club in an attempt to make his name and climb the Leagues. Notable spells with Sassuolo and an on loan spell with Padova, during which he made his International debut for India against Malaysia in 2009, stick out on his CV. He has since made his living with Salò, an Italian town club who lay between Milan and Verona in geography, but nowhere near in playing levels. They were non-League when he arrived there, and they have just played their first season at the C2/A level, the fourth tier, where they have failed to survive and suffered relegation. He is out of contract in a couple of weeks, and it will be interesting to see what happens, as while he has undoubted talent, he also has a reputation for being lazy, making it an issue that he is also providing cover for the right wing. At 6'2, he will be a threat from set pieces, whether taking them or getting on the end of them.

Moving on, we go into the centre midfield positions, starting with Mehrajuddin Wadoo, the first of the pair of non-League players who are playing for Viva Kerala. A 29 year old with half a dozen caps who has frequently moved around the clubs, but is more of a workhorse in the middle of the park than a player with any huge talent with the ball at his feet. Still, every side needs one they say. Another option, and you'll notice that I didn't say a better option, is the current India Captain, 34 year old Climax Lawrence. You'll notice also that I said 'current'. Don't be surprised if you never see Lawrence in an India squad ever again, and his club Mohammedan SC certainly think he has had his day too, offloading him Dempo SC on a Free Transfer, which will be his third spell with the club. So why select him? Well, he does have enormous influence, and with the sweeping changes I have made, leaving out a player who has been a good servant to the Indian National Team might just have been a bridge too far this time. The clock is ticking for him though.

Far more likely to be involved long term is the 25 year old Belgian born attacking midfielder, Sabri Gharbi. An Indian National through family, he failed to make the grade at Lierse SK, FC Brussels and Dutch club NEC Nijmegen, he made the move to the land of his heritage, and quickly made his International debut for India against Uzbekistan in 2009 while playing for Churchill Brothers. A second spell with them after a year and a half with Mohun Bagan led to another move, this time midway through last season with the move to East Bengal. A transfer fee of £12,000 bought them three goals and eleven assists, and now I'd love to see the diminutive forward bring that kind of form to the National Team. Also in the squad, Aman Verma has managed something in two caps that Gharbi couldn't yet do in four, find the net in International football. The Leicester born British/Indian scored on his debut in the First Leg of the World Cup Qualifying defeat to Qatar, and has been itching to get back involved in International football ever since. Verma had a good start to his career in non-League, and was picked up by Leicester City in a dream move. Sadly, it lasted just one season and not a sniff of the First Team. Three cracking seasons with Droylsden in the Blue Square North saw him hit nearly 40 goals, earning him a move north of the border to a rival from earlier in my career, Stirling Albion. Add in one final selection for the centre of the park, and the latest in the installment of players who have been picked to secure them into our National Pool. The chances of France having any interest at all in ever calling up 18 year old Gautam Roy is ridiculously remote, but we can't afford to take the chance on the Vannes Olympique forward going missing from our National Pool. The Jabalpur born lad hasn't made his debut in three seasons with the French League 2 club who have just been relegated to the National Championship, but he will be making his International bow in the coming days.

Out on the wings, I am going to be honest with you readers, we are struggling a little bit. Less so on the right wing, where we have three times capped Mohun Bagan speedster Steven Dias. 29 years old, in the latter part of his prime years, and his speed is very much intact, as is his crossing ability. He is not too shabby from a dead ball either, and his form with Dempo SC has just earned him a move to the Champions, his third spell with them. Twenty six assists in the National Football League point to a player who can bring a vital supply line to our strikers. However, we have very little depth behind him, and if Dias gets injured, loses form or retires, we would be in bad shape on that side of the park.

Things are not really any better on the left wing to be fair. Clifford Miranda is a 30 year old that has only ever earned three International caps in a weak pool of players on the left flank, which says a lot. However, his League form is more encouraging, Salgaocar SC have just paid £3,000 to get his signature from Mohammedan SC. It was his second spell with them, and it will now be his third spell with his new club. Clearly he isn't shy at moving clubs for a few extra quid a week, and he isn't shy about getting crosses in either, fourteen assists are on top of his eight goals over the last three seasons. He is pretty quick, and has a bit of flair about him, but can he deliver on the International stage? Probably nudging ahead of him in the pecking order right now is uncapped 24 year old Viva Kerala left footer, Reisangmi Vasum. He earned his big move to East Bengal a few seasons ago after impressing with Mohammedan SC and Pune FC, but he never made it as a regular with the top end team, and cut his losses after a season and a half to sign for non-League club SC Goa. There, with regular football, he bounced right back to form, and after earning a move to Viva Kerala, he now finds himself in the India Senior Squad for the first time, and in line to become an International footballer. He isn't as quick as Miranda, but he does have a better rounded game overall.

Strikers
Last, but by no means least, we reach the sharp end of the park, and I'm delighted to tell you that this is where we have some real strength in depth. So much so, I almost had to toss a coin to decide who was going to be left out, as we have as many as eight very good options. Eventually, I managed to trim that number down to five, and three of those will be new caps for India as well.

Sunil Chetri is one of India's most popular players, though it didn't really work out for him at Mohun Bagan. His career was kickstarted with a move to JCT, and then on to East Bengal. Two years ago he made a £55,000 move to Vietnamese side Gia Lai, and he has notched 18 goals in 56 games for them. That isn't a bad strike rate, but is eclipsed by his superb International record, where he has 15 goals in just 21 caps. Lacking a little in height, making up for it with pace, determination and team work, it could be an interesting year for Chetri, with his contract due to expire at the end of 2013. There is plenty of interest in the 28 year old, with clubs from Russia, Greece, Spain, Georgia, Turkey and Israel all rumoured to be interested, all I'm sure aware of the potential market openings created by signing one of the sub-continents most popular players. At the other end of the International spectrum, but very much in the veteran category is 34 year old Yakubu Yusif. Another player born in Ghana who has been drafted into the squad, Yusif has been an Indian National for several years now after arriving in the country in 2001. Politics, the FA's unwillingness to call on naturalised players, whatever the reasons may have been, they have been missing out on a striker with a superb scoring record in India. He's played for three clubs, plus one more on loan, and in 231 League matches he has found the net 145 times, including 57 in the last five seasons, so age doesn't appear to be a huge issue for the striker. He's currently strutting his stuff for Salgaocar SC.

Another naturalised player that India have previously called upon is Chidi Edeh. The strong 26 year old was born in Nigeria, and arrived in India one season after Yusif, being called up for International duty around 18 months later to make his debut against Uzbekistan in early 2009. He now has 6 caps to his name, also scoring twice for India, and while his domestic record is not quite as good as Yusif's, 85 goals from 169 games is not too shabby at all, and he has the advantage of being 8 years younger. Our fourth striker has only fairly recently become available to play for India, and this is the first squad he has been eligible for. I have no hesitation in including 30 year old Edu in my squad, especially as the Brazilian may not be in India much longer. Scoring 14 times in 15 games when he first arrived at JCT for the 2007/08 season, he is a little unique in Indian football in that he has stayed with the same club. He has now played six seasons at the club, notching better than a goal every other game with 57 goals in 112 matches. He adds some much needed height to our front line, but there isn't much he can't do when it comes to the striker role. He has just signed a new one year deal with JCT, but that hasn't stopped the rumours, with several clubs lower down the pyramid in Portugal said to be keen on signing Edu. Finally, it's the third of my players included to get them capped and ensure they will remain available to the Indian cause for the duration of his career. This time it's 17 year old Tapan Janssens, born and raised in La Louvìere and playing for his hometown club in Belgium's second tier. He has just completed his first season as a professional, and hasn't yet made his Senior debut, but will become an International player during the next week or so. I'm not sure he'd have ever made it onto Belgium's radar with the golden generation of Red Devils that they currently have, and there was significant doubt if Janssens would actually arrive in India to be part of the squad, but he has accepted his call up, and hopefully we can see him develop into an important player during the coming years.

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Friday 7th June 2013
Previews of tomorrows match, my first in charge of India, have seen the focus on how much experimentation is likely to take place, with a lot of interest in prospective new goalkeeper Jasbir Singh who has never played a match in India, his entire career being spent in the UK.

Alongside me in the pre-match press conference is right sided player Ajay Bailleux, and he tells the assembled media that with a clean slate and a new start for everyone involved, there is a determination and confidence in the camp that they can start a new era of football for the Indian National Team with a win tomorrow against Sri Lanka.

Saturday 8th June
And so game day has finally arrived. No matter what happens today, there won't be any shockwaves through the world of football caused by the events in Kolkata, but that isn't the aim. Usher in some new tactics and set pieces, introduce a group of new players, and start to slowly build up our FIFA World Ranking points and start to climb that ladder. Sri Lanka consider us to be a fierce rival, while that isn't quite as heated for us. We consider Pakistan and Bangladesh to be more natural rivals, and that may even be due more to other sports away from football. Nonetheless, getting one over on a rival would be a great start.

International Friendly
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India
India (202nd) v Sri Lanka (199th)
Attendance :-
72,021. Weather :- Breezy, 34c.

Scotland based goalkeeper Jasbir Singh is handed his International debut today, and there are several others joining the 22 year old. Paramjit Kumar is another at left back, selected ahead of Azadur Barman who could also make his bow today from the bench. The next debutant is in the middle of the back four, and it's Ghana born James Dissiramah, who partners Deepak Mondal, the experienced defender who wins his 24th cap today, and is also the Captain with Climax Lawrence left out. The centre of midfield sees an exciting looking combination of Sabri Gharbi and William Jidayi, which leaves Steven Dias as the only option for the right wing. There is another new cap selected on the left wing, Reisangmi Vasum of the Viva Kerala club selected ahead of Clifford Miranda. Up front, Sunil Chetri is paired with a fifth new India cap for the day, Edu. Up to five more could make their debuts from the bench, but Climax Lawrence is left out of the matchday squad for this one, as is veteran striker Yakubu Yusif, who is also hoping to make a debut during this International Window.

It would take ten minutes for us to get our first attack, but it was worth the wait. James Dissiramah played a long ball from centre back down into the left wing, picking out the run of fellow debutant Reisangmi Vasum. He sent a cross in to the centre, which was headed by a defender back out towards the edge of the box. There, it was collected by Sabri Gharbi, who then struck a firm low shot that skidded off the turf and into the bottom corner, his first ever International goal and the first of my reign. That was a great moment, and in front of a massively bigger crowd than I've ever managed a team in front of. Unfortunately, we didn't really manage to push on from there, blighted mainly by our own inability to hold onto the ball, losing it often, and sometimes in crucial areas. One such instance on the half hour led to Mohammed Channa getting the ball to Mohamed Mohamed Anees, and he sent in a 20 yard curling shot that beat Jasbir Singh, but came back off the keepers upright. We survived that one, but not the next time. Anees' corner to the near post wasn't cleared effectively, and Sri Lanka's own naturalised player, Danish born Ove Jakobsen sent it back towards goal. The ball took a huge deflection, and spun towards the far post, where Gharbi tried to keep it away from Nishantha Hewage, managing instead to put it in his own net!

At half time I made some planned changes, Azadur Barman coming on at left back for his International debut in place of Paramjit Kumar, and the strikers were also switched, Sunal Chetri and Edu replaced by Tapan Janssens and Chidi Edeh. The first half had been okay, and I felt I had seen enough to have confidence that we could go on to win the game. That point of view was helped with our first attack of the second half. We won a free kick on the left, and Steven Dias curled it across, Dissiramah having to adjust himself to meet a cross that was too low to head, but solved his problem by hooking the ball into the roof of the net to open his International account for his new nation on his debut! We would almost extend that lead just before the hour mark, Vasum's corner was met by a header from, Deepak Mondal, but Mohammed Liyanage headed it off the line. About ten minutes after that, Azadur Barman's debut was cut short after he sustained a rib injury, right back Nirmal Chetri coming on for his debut out of position on the opposite side of the back four to where he is used to playing. I made my two remaining changes at the same time, with two more newly capped players coming into the game to make it ten overall for the day, Francisco Bhowmick at centre back, and Gautam Roy in midfield. It was unfortunate that I had used all six changes, as with 15 minutes left to play, William Jidayi took a knock, though he indicated he would be okay to carry on. Sri Lanka spaced out their changes much more than we did, but all that achieved was to stop the flow of the match, which suited us with a lead to sit on. It's often a case that International Friendly matches become quite a slog in the second half when changes come thick and fast, and that was certainly what happened here. Tapan Janssens played in Chidi Edeh late on, but the Nigerian born striker took too long to try and get his shot off. Deep into injury time, Dias picked out Janssens in the box, but the teenager couldn't quite hold his run long enough to snap open the offside trap. Still, we opened with a win, which was pleasing.

India (1) 2 - Sabri Gharbi (11), James Dissiramah (50)
Sri Lanka (1) 1 - Sabri Gharbi (36 og)
Jasbir Singh; Ajay Bailleux, Deepak Mondal © (Francisco Bhowmick 67), James Dissiramah, Paramjit Kumar (Azadur Barman 45 (inj - Nirmal Chetri 67)); Sabri Gharbi (Gautam Roy 67), William Jidayi; Steven Dias, Reisangmi Vasum; Sunil Chetri (Tapan Janssens 45), Edu (Chidi Edeh 45).

Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- James Dissiramah (India).

I'm told that crowd was a sell out as the capacity had been limited for the two Friendly matches, with the stadium actually capable of holding 120,000. Some headlines in the Indian press were a little self indulgent, as they proudly proclaimed that India had put in a 'vintage performance' and 'taught Sri Lanka a footballing lesson'. I wouldn't go that far, or anywhere close, but it wasn't a bad start. There is plenty to work on though.

The game next week against Thailand would likely be another step up in opposition quality, and while I wanted to take a look at as many players as possible in these early matches, I also need to keep in mind the goal, to keep us moving up the FIFA World Rankings.

William Jidayi hobbled his way through the last fifteen minutes or so of the match, but had suffered no real damage and would be fine for the second match. Azadur Barman had suffered bruised ribs, and would remain with the squad, though it was classed as doubtful as to whether he would be available to play against Thailand in the second match of the double header.

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Sunday 9th June 2013
Two very happy Indian players spoke to the press this morning. The first was Paramjit Kumar, who played the first half of yesterday's 2-1 win over Sri Lanka, the Mohun Bagan right back making his International debut in the process. The second was East Bengal's star midfield player, Sabri Gharbi, who was ignoring the fact that he had also been credited with an own goal, and was celebrating getting off the mark for his country with his first goal in his fifth appearance.

Tuesday 11th June
In light of his injury in the first match, Vasco SC have requested that Azadur Barman play no more than 45 minutes of football in tomorrow's International Friendly with Thailand in Kolkata. The left back sustained some bruised ribs midway through the second half after coming on as a half time substitute to make his International debut.

Today I tell the press that the pressure is all on Thailand tomorrow, as they are the ones 90 places above us in the Rankings, meaning that very few people will be expecting much from our team. Teenager Gautam Roy then ruined all my good work by telling the press that India wouldn't be intimidated by the South East Asian visitors, and that the feeling was a high level performance would see us claim an unlikely victory.

Wednesday 12th June

International Friendly
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India
India (202nd) v Thailand (112th)
Attendance :-
72,129. Weather :- Breezy, 32c.

There is some changing around for the starting lineup for the second part of our double header during this International Window. Subrata Pal is brought into the side to start in goal, with Jasbir Singh dropping out today and Mohammed Hossain comes into the squad as his back up on the bench. Vice Captain of the squad, and skipper for the day last time out, Deepak Mondal is also left out of the squad today, with youngster Francisco Bhowmick starting and Manju Nanjangud Shivananju added to the substitutes. The midfielders and wingers in the starting lineup stay the same, reward for a good performance against Sri Lanka last time out, with Captain of the squad Climax Lawrence brought in to sit on the bench in place of injured left back Azadur Barman, with Stirling Albion midfielder Aman Verma also brought into the squad. Finally up front, Edu and Sunil Chetri are both dropped onto the bench, replaced by a new starting partnership of Chidi Edeh, who wears the armband, and Yakubu Yusif making his debut, with Tapan Janssens left out.

Thailand would make the first attacking move in the 8th minute, Sabri Gharbi thought he was fouled in the centre circle by Theerawesin Seehawong, but the ref waved play on and the striker strode into our half before releasing Kornprom Jaroonpong into the left channel of the box, Francisco Bhowmick forcing him a little wide, and Subrata Pal pushed his shot from the angle around the near post. We had to wait till the 12th minute for our first attack, Ajay Bailleux with a short throw in to Yakubu Yusif on the right, and the striker spotted the runner, picking out Reisangmi Vasum in the centre as he ran off the shoulder of his marker, the winger getting goal side and smashing a half volley low into the corner of the net to give us a surprise lead. Unfortunately it would be a fairly short lived lead, as in the 21st minute Paramjit Kumar's clearance was picked off by Seehawong, and he picked his pass to Jaroonpong again, and this time he gave Pal no chance with his finish, finding the net to level this game at 1-1. Within a minute, we would spurn a glorious chance to go right back in front, James Dissiramah slicing open the Thai defence with a through ball from centre back, and Chidi Edeh had far too much pace for the centre back, winning the race, controlling the ball, and then sending his shot the wrong side of Adul Yong-en's post, holding his head in his hands in disbelief that he had wasted that chance. Thailand would soon create a good chance to turn the match right around, Dissiramah didn't get a throw into our penalty box to safety and Attapong Nooprom sent it across to the edge of the six yard box where Seehawong put in a header from close range, Pal making a point blank reaction stop to keep it out. Would either side regret missing great chances to snatch the lead?

Thailand made just one change at the break, while we made none, which would mean a very disjointed second half in all likelihood once the inevitable changes started to be made. Disjointed would be exactly the right word to describe our defence when I made five changes in one go twenty minutes after the restart. The changes were set off by another left back injury, with Paramjit Kumar getting injured. With no left back on the bench, Nirmal Chetri would once more be called into emergency action on the wrong side of the back four. Francisco Bhowmick, William Jidayi, Vasum and Yusif were all replaced at the same time, Manju Nanjangud Shivananju, Aman Vedra, Climax Lawrence and Edu all came on. Two minutes later, Edu was dispossessed on halfway by Sarayut Chaipan. He got the ball to Seehawong, who in turn squared it to Bagus Subakty. His pass forward found half time sub Amnaj Sangthong. His touch was heavy, and Gharbi's attempted clearance hit newly introduced Manju and trickled past Pal and into the net. That was excruciating to watch, and to compound our misery, Edu took a knock when he lost the ball. He would try to push through, and was involved in the build up when Gharbi hit a curler from the corner of the box that came back off the cross bar! With fifteen minutes to go, Edu could go on no longer, and Sunil Chetri was summoned to try and get us back level. We wanted to create one good chance to try and get ourselves level, with the players asked to focus the play down the right wing, and utilise the pace of Steven Dias. That was achieved in the 82nd minute, Dias burning his marker for pace, and then threading a peach of a cross between defenders, picking out Sunil Chetri who was absolutely unmarked in the middle just eight yards out. You'd have put your next door neighbours house on him, and you'd have had a new neighbour too, as he clipped the shot across goal and just an inch wide of the far post. We had created enough good chances to win this match, but instead, we would have to pick ourselves up from a defeat.

India (1) 1 - Reisangmi Vasum (13)
Thailand (1) 2 - Kornprom Jaroonpong (21), Manju Nanjangud Shivananju (67 og)
Subrata Pal; Ajay Bailleux, Francisco Bhowmick (Manju Nanjangud Shivananju 65), James Dissiramah, Paramjit Kumar (Nirmal Chetri 67); Sabri Gharbi, William Jidayi (Aman Verma 65); Steven Rias, Reisangmi Vasum; Chidi Edeh ©, Yakubu Yusif (Edu 45 (inj - Sunil Chetri 75).

Unused Substitutes :- Mohammed Hossain (GK), Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Kornprom Jaroonpong (Thailand).

That was a real shame, I feel like we deserved a draw at least, but we were facing a nation ninety places higher up the Rankings than us, so there was nothing to be ashamed about at all. In fact, over the two matches, if you take away the two own goals and have us finish half of the really good chances that we created, we would be sat now looking back at a pair of very good wins. Plenty of work to do, but plenty of good things to build on as well.

In their own sports press, the Thai victory was labelled as 'unconvincing', which cheered me up a fair bit. It was also interesting to note that Thailand had a few naturalised players, just like Sri Lanka had in midweek, and that let me now that we were absolutely doing the right thing by selecting the best available players, regardless of where they were born.

Thursday 13th June
That brought this International Window to an end, but with limited dates available, I was keen to make sure that we got at least one more game in this year. Some work with the FA before I made my way back to the day job in Minsk would throw up some possibilities, and I selected the one that I thought would suit us and our current ambition levels well. We would play away from home on Saturday 12th October, and our opposition would be 188th ranked nation Myanmar, who also played yesterday, losing 3-1 against Lebanon in the very same Rangoon venue that we would visit, the 45,000 capacity Aung San Memorial Stadium.

Two of the squad are featured in the sports pages in India today as the squad starts to return back to their clubs. Yakubu Yusif has told the media how grateful he is to be given the opportunity to play International football during the twilight years of his career, and stated that he now has a new found desire to keep scoring goals and make sure he keeps his spot in the next International squad. The other was left winger Reisangmi Vasum, who not only made his International debut over the two games, but also netted his first goal. He was surprisingly good during those first matches for India, and the challenge is for him to continue his form and cement his place as a first choice player for us.

Next month we'll find out if we have made any early impact on our FIFA World Ranking, and we'll be looking to improve when we come together as a squad again in October.

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Posted (edited)

July 2013
Around a month ago, India played their first International fixtures with me at the helm, recording a win against Sri Lanka, followed by a defeat to Thailand. Not a bad start, and it had certainly helped us in the FIFA World Rankings when they were released, catapulting us 18 spots from 202nd to 184th, and moving us well on towards our target of initially making up around fifty spots to at least put us in contention to play in the Continental Qualifiers. We had gained 25 ranking points from those two Friendly matches, and we were now ahead of our next opponents. As you can see from the table below, which shows the ten sides either side of us, there is still plenty of scope to improve as well, hopefully giving the players plenty of motivation to defeat Myanmar later in the year.

FIFA World Rankings, July 2013

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |

| 174th              | Malta                            | 2                  | 50                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 175th              | Eritrea                          | 6                  | 45                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 176th              | São Tomé and Principe            | 3                  | 42                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 177th              | Andorra                          | 13                 | 41                 |
|   =                | Niger                            | 24                 | 41                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 179th              | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | 8                  | 39                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 180th              | Nepal                            | 3                  | 38                 |
|   =                | US Virgin Islands                | 6                  | 38                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 182nd              | Mauritius                        | 8                  | 34                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 183rd              | Belize                           | -                  | 31                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 184th              | India                            | 18                 | 29                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 185th              | Turks and Caicos Islands         | 1                  | 28                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 186th              | Bhutan                           | 9                  | 25                 |
|   =                | British Virgin Islands           | 3                  | 25                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 188th              | Guam                             | 3                  | 24                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 189th              | Myanmar                          | 1                  | 23                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 190th              | Antigua and Barbuda              | 1                  | 21                 |
|   =                | Dominica                         | 1                  | 21                 |
|   =                | Seychelles                       | 1                  | 21                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 193rd              | Anguilla                         | 12                 | 20                 |
|   =                | Ethiopia                         | 12                 | 20                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Speaking of the players, there had been plenty of developments to report there as well, with players moving clubs and new players added to the National Pool, including some very interesting looking newbies. But let's start by taking a look at some of those who were involved in last months International Friendly double header.

Starting at the very back, and things are a little bit up in the air for one of India's newest International players. 23 year old British/Indian goalkeeper Jasbir Singh made his International debut in the win against Sri Lanka after having a decent season for Scottish non-League side, Clachnacuddin. Now, Singh finds himself out of contract, and without a club after holding off on signing a new deal. There is still plenty of interest in his signature, Crawley Town and Stockport County amongst his suitors, but as the summer moves on, the more he will become anxious. There is also a debate to be had as to whether him being involved with the India squad is a good or bad thing for his club prospects, with Asian nations notoriously taking little notice of domestic calendars when playing their fixtures.

In the defence, it is starting to look possible that another new cap, James Dissiramah will be moving on from Mumbai FC and joining perennial Title contenders, East Bengal, with an offer already accepted and personal terms being discussed. First choice right back Ajay Bailleux has gone down a different route, leaving Champions of the National Football League and largest club in the nation, Mohun Began and dropping out of the flagship competition to play for Pune FC, a risky decision for the dozen times capped defender. Finally, another foreign based new cap, as Hong Kong national Francisco Bhowmick is cut adrift by Fukien and will be playing at a significantly lower level with Kowloon City District Recreation & Sports Council. They are an amateur side, and though they have given him a full time deal, he won't be getting paid. I will need to be convinced that he will be able to move between that level, and the International stage.

Into the midfield, and there is also a change of scenery for one of more experienced and influential players. 28 year old William Jidayi remains in Italy, but has swapped Salò for Ravenna, moving up a step in level as well in making the Free Transfer switch. He'll be playing in much better company, but he might have to work for a regular starting spot, with former Juventus youngster Edoardo Braiati a firm fans favourite at the club and playing in the same position.

Of the strikers that were selected for the last squad, there is only one club change so far, but it's a fairly big one, and it could be a very good one too. New Dehli born Sunil Chetri has fifteen goals in 23 caps for his country so far, and wasn't doing too bad at all in Vietnam with Hoang Anh Gia Lai. Now for the first time in his career he will have a crack at club football in Europe, as he has made a £3,000 transfer to Greek second tier club AS Rodos, who finished their debut season the National B Division comfortably above the relegation zone. It will be a huge step up in quality for the 28 year old, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Let's move onto the new players that have become available to India, and we will start looking at these by age, starting with the youngest group, the fifteen year olds. And what a group it is, starting with the centre midfielder, Amit Singh. He is a brand new player to professional football, and he is taking his first steps with a very reputable club when it comes to nurturing young players, FC Nantes of France. Born to French parents in New Dehli, the family have since returned to Western France and Singh is very highly thought of by Nantes' coaching staff. Already an accomplished passer of the ball, and a dead ball specialist of some note, the downside of his obvious talent is that he hasn't ruled out representing France and not India. If we can convince him to join us, we will have to cap him at the first available opportunity.

Less talented, but also playing in France, another midfielder worth keeping an eye on is Karan Mollah. He will be with his hometown club, AS Poissy of the French Championnat, the fourth tier that features a large amount of Reserve teams from top tier clubs. A good centre back and some decent looking left back prospects round out the youngest group of players.

The 16 year old group is the largest, and it also features some very good prospects, three in particular that I'd like to tell you about. The first is Khaled Sarker, a centre midfielder who has joined the Mohun Bagan club. He will need to work hard to get into the First Team picture, but along with East Bengal, he is at one of the two best clubs in the nation and the next best option to plying his trade overseas. And overseas is where the other two players are, starting with a very welcome addition to our goalkeeping ranks. Ganesh Aerts was born in the Belgian town of Zulte, and is eligible for India through ancestry, he hasn't ever set foot in the country. Right now the six footer, who is in the Youth system of top tier club AA Gent, says he would only consider a call up from Belguim right now, but such is his talent that we will be looking to test that resolve sooner rather than later. I'd go as far as to say he would likely push to be India's number one keeper right away. Even further north in Europe, there is Sheikh Thakur, who is also eligible to play for India. Another centre midfielder, he is already part of the First Team squad for FK Viborg in the Danish Premier Division, and judging by the contract they have just handed him, he is very much part of their future plans. A creative player with a good turn of pace, he would be another superb addition to our National Pool.

With a few older players, such as 19 year old AS Saint-Etienne striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury and 28 year old Olympic Charleroi right winger Raheem Alibhaï potentially softening their stances on turning out for India as well, our Pool of players looks like it is only going to get stronger. Add in 5 times capped striker Ranty Martins, a Nigerian born forward who is now plying his trade with Al-Nejmeh in Lebanon, three times capped Havant & Waterlooville centre back Rikki Bains, 16 year old midfielder Sachin Ali who is a New Zealand national currently playing Youth football in Australia, and 19 year old left winger Alan Cervinski, who has just moved to Australia with his family after breaking into Mumbai's First Team. He will continue his development with Toowoomba Raiders. Look out Asia, the emergence of Indian football is about to take the Continent by storm.....hopefully!

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

August/September 2013
There is no change in our FIFA World Ranking over these months, which remains at 184th, with no change in our points either, remaining on 29. There is however quite a bit of movement on next year's fixture calendar. Already with fairly limited dates available, three games are confirmed for the India Senior National side in 2014. We have two home matches arranged, the first for June where our visitors will be The Philippines, currently ranked ahead of us in 169th and heavily reliant on their best player, and only one currently playing outside of the domestic game, 14 times capped Simone Rota who plays for Serie C1 club Crotone in Italy, where he has spent most of his career aside from a spell in Switzerland.

Also due to visit us next year are another Asian nation who are currently ranked above us, who we certainly believe we can pick off and overtake. The Maldives are ranked 164th in the World Rankings right now despite having no notable players, yet they did squeeze past Turkmenistan over two legs in the FIFA 2014 World Cup First Qualifying Round almost two years ago, and then took Yemen all the way to penalties in Round Two before being beaten and missing out on a place in the Third Round Group Stage. Nonetheless, it will have done wonders for their Ranking points, and we have every chance of beating them when they visit Kolkata next October.

Our final date in the calendar for next year will see us take on the current 178th placed nation, and our first European opponents for over 20 years* (verification required) in a Senior match. The opposition will be Andorra, and we will travel to the tiny principality in the Pyrenees next November. They have lost all eight of their FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying matches to date, scoring just twice, while shipping 32 goals at the other end. They currently have two players who are playing in Spain's third tier with UD Mérida, a goalkeeper who plays semi-professionally in Ibiza, and a midfielder who plays the game on an amateur basis in Spain's non-League football scene. Playing in Europe in itself will be a huge event for India, if we could score a victory to mark the occasion, it would be a big deal for us.

Our current initial aim is to try and move ourselves up through the Asian Nations in the FIFA World Rankings as quickly as possible so that we are in a position to compete in the Qualifying Stages for Continental Tournaments, something that our Senior side have not been highly ranked enough to do in recent times. So as such, with less than a week until the next squad announcement, I thought it would be worth looking at exactly where we sit against our Continental rivals right now as we prepare for October's match in Myanmar.

Asian Nations in the FIFA World Rankings, as of Tuesday 1st October 2013

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |

| 13th               | South Korea                      | -2                 | 1241               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 20th               | Australia                        | -                  | 1121               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 26th               | Saudi Arabia                     | +3                 | 1004               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 42nd               | China PR                         | -3                 | 864                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 44th               | Japan                            | -1                 | 843                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 56th               | Iran                             | -3                 | 724                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 70th               | United Arab Emirates             | +1                 | 503                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 73rd               | Qatar                            | +4                 | 491                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 76th               | Uzbekistan                       | +2                 | 465                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 84th               | Bahrain                          | -                  | 391                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 89th               | Indonesia                        | +5                 | 353                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 90th               | Oman                             | +5                 | 353                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 92nd               | Kuwait                           | +6                 | 341                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 94th               | Singapore                        | +9                 | 322                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 99th               | Iraq                             | +7                 | 301                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 112th              | Thailand                         | +3                 | 236                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 116th              | Syria                            | +6                 | 201                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 118th              | Vietnam                          | +5                 | 197                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 120th              | Lebanon                          | +6                 | 189                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 123rd              | Tajikistan                       | +5                 | 178                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 130th              | Jordan                           | +5                 | 143                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 137th              | Yemen                            | +1                 | 124                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 138th              | Bangladesh                       | +1                 | 123                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 142nd              | Turkmenistan                     | -1                 | 116                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 144th              | North Korea                      | -2                 | 112                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 145th              | Hong Kong (China PR)             | +1                 | 102                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 149th              | Kyrgyzstan                       | +1                 | 92                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 151st              | Mongolia                         | +2                 | 82                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 155th              | Malaysia                         | +2                 | 72                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 158th              | Palestine                        | +2                 | 70                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 159th              | Chinese Taipei (China PR)        | +4                 | 67                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 160th              | Maldives                         | +4                 | 67                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 167th              | Brunei Darussalam                | +1                 | 58                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 168th              | The Philippines                  | +1                 | 56                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 178th              | Nepal                            | +2                 | 38                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 184th              | India                            | -                  | 29                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 186th              | Bhutan                           | -                  | 25                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 188th              | Guam                             | -                  | 24                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 189th              | Myanmar                          | -                  | 23                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 193rd              | Pakistan                         | +2                 | 17                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 196th              | East Timor                       | +1                 | 14                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 198th              | Sri Lanka                        | +1                 | 13                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 200th              | Cambodia                         | -                  | 8                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 201st              | Macau (China PR)                 | -                  | 8                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 202nd              | Afghanistan                      | -                  | 7                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 206th              | Laos                             | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

I make that 36th out of the 46 Asian Nations right now, with only 20 nations participating in the Qualifying process for the 2015 Asian Nations Cup, plus the holders and hosts getting automatic spots to make for a 16 nation Finals Tournament. Clearly we have a lot of work to do before we are going to be getting ourselves involved there then.

The World Cup however, now that's a different story. Everyone gets a crack at Qualifying for the big one, and judging by previous calendars the First Round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup are almost exactly two years away. Our focus has to be improving as much as possible in the FIFA World Rankings before the draw for that First Round takes place, giving ourselves the best chance to be seeded and progress. The more progress we can make, the more Ranking points we will pick up, and the more points we have, the better chance there is of being involved in the Asian Cup Qualifiers as well. We're a nation with a plan, now we just have to get the job done on the park, and persuade the Indian FA to leave me to get on with things, both easier said than done, but the latter maybe proving more trickier than I had planned for.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Senior Squad for Friendly International vs Myanmar - (A) 12/10/13

| Name                           | Position  | Club                        | Height  | Age     | Value   | Caps | Goals |
 
| Jasbir Singh                   | GK        | Airdrie Utd (SCO)           | 6'0"    | 23      | £1K     |   1  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain               | GK        | Mohun Bagan                 | 6'1"    | 20      | £2K     |   1  |   0   |
| Subrata Pal                    | GK        | East Bengal                 | 6'0"    | 26      | £18K    |   9  |   0   |
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Dulal Bhattacharya             | D L       | East Bengal                 | 5'8"    | 21      | £5K     |   5  |   1   |
| Paramjit Kumar                 | D L       | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'7"    | 19      | £28K    |   2  |   0   |
| Deepak Mondal                  | D C       | Vasco SC                    | 5'10"   | 33      | -       |  24  |   3   |
| James Dissiramah               | D C       | East Bengal                 | 5'10"   | 30      | £5K     |   2  |   1   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju     | D C       | East Bengal                 | 6'1"    | 26      | £12K    |  10  |   1   |
| Rikki Bains                    | D C       | Havant & Waterlooville (ENG)| 6'1"    | 25      | £4K     |   3  |   0   |
| Ajay Bailleux                  | D/WB/M R  | Pune FC                     | 5'10"   | 29      | £1K     |  12  |   0   |
| Naoba Singh                    | D/WB/AM R | Vasco SC                    | 5'9"    | 24      | £12K    |   0  |   0   |
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep | D/AM C    | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'7"    | 30      | £10K    |  24  |  10   |
| William Jidayi                 | DM, M RC  | Ravenna (ITA)               | 6'2"    | 29      | £4K     |  10  |   1   |
| Amit Singh                     | DM, M C   | FC Nantes (FRA)             | 5'9"    | 15      | £26K    |   0  |   0   |
| Karan Mollah                   | DM, M C   | AS Poissy (FRA)             | 5'7"    | 15      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo              | DM, M C   | Viva Kerala                 | 5'11"   | 29      | -       |   6  |   0   |
| Kuldip Kumar                   | M C       | Mahindra Utd                | 5'8"    | 21      | £10K    |   0  |   0   |
| Raheem Alibhaï                 | AM R      | Olympic Charleroi (BEL)     | 5'7"    | 29      | £8K     |   0  |   0   |
| Alan Cervinski                 | AM L      | Toowoomba Raiders (AUS)     | 5'8"    | 19      | -       |   0  |   0   |
| Joseph Pereira                 | AM L      | FC Kochin                   | 5'6"    | 31      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Sabri Gharbi                   | AM C      | East Bengal                 | 5'7"    | 25      | £1K     |   6  |   1   |
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Chidi Edeh                     | ST        | Mahindra Utd                | 5'11"   | 27      | £14K    |   8  |   2   |
| Ranty Martins                  | ST        | Al-Nejmeh (LIB)             | 6'1"    | 27      | £10K    |   5  |   3   |
| Sandip Kumar                   | ST        | East Bengal                 | 6'0"    | 21      | £24K    |   1  |   0   |
| Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury       | ST        | A.S. Saint-Etienne (FRA)    | 6'4"    | 19      | £70K    |   0  |   0   |
| Sunil Chetri                   | ST        | AS Rodos (GRE)              | 5'5"    | 29      | £14K    |  23  |  15   |
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This evening, while sat in an apartment in Minsk, I became pretty unpopular with many journalists and pundits of Indian football, and actually, not very high up on the Christmas card list of the Indian FA itself. It would appear that they don't like what I am trying to do, and they don't understand, and maybe even don't want to understand what I am trying to achieve for them, both now, and in the months and years down the line. The game has been neglected at Senior level by those in charge, and now I'm trying to put things right, and absolutely refuse to compromise on that.

The main reason for their reaction is my selection of a pair of 15 year old's, well, actually, more one of them really. But we'll get to that. That selection aside, there are no real complaints, twelve changes from the last squad selection, and eight potential new Indian International footballers are included. The squad includes ten players who currently play their football abroad, with nine of the remaining sixteen players representing either of the two biggest domestic sides, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

Goalkeepers
Lets get some meat on the bones and let you know what is what, starting with the goalkeepers. The main change here is not in personnel, but in the quality of club in the trio, and one of my new caps has taken a step forward. It's the first of our overseas based players, Jasbir Singh, who has upgraded. He has swapped non-league side Clachnacuddin for the considerably loftier heights of third tier club Airdrie United. However, had I had my way, one of the three keepers would have needed to be dropped from the squad, as there would have been a second Belgian based player in the squad. 6'0 teenage stopper Ganesh Aerts is playing for the Youth side of one of Belgium's leading clubs, AA Gent. He would easily be in our top three keepers, despite his young age. But right now, he isn't interested in turning out for the nation of his ancestors, and instead intends to see where he fits into the plans of Belgium.

Defenders
On to the defence then, and we start at right back, where we need to make a change with Nirmal Chetri suffering an injury in a match this weekend. Called up in his place is the first of our potential new caps during this International Window, pacy attacking full back, Naoba Singh. The 24 year old who plays for Vasco Sports Club can play anywhere down the right flank, and has returned to Vasco for a second spell after a very average season with Mumbai last campaign. An upturn in form and the injury to Chetri means he now has a chance to challenge the player who is still the standout right back in our Player Pool, 29 year old Ajay Bailleux. I aired my concerns about Bailleux leaving National League side Mohun Bagan to play in the second tier for Pune FC. I need not have concerned myself, as our first choice right back and former PSV Eindhoven youngster has pushed his performances to the next level.

On the left side of the back four, the situation is almost identical. On that side we are blessed with two stand out young left backs, 19 year old Paramjit Kumar of Mohun Bagan, and 21 year old Azadur Barman of Vasco SC. Unfortunately, we'll be missing the latter of the two with a damaged heel, and so a replacement is required. That means a recall to the squad for five times capped 21 year old East Bengal player Dulal Bhattacharya. First capped by Bobby Houghton as a 17 year old when he was still at JCT United, he is delighted to have a chance to stake his claim for a return to the International scene.

The landscape is a little more complicated in the middle of the back four, particularly when it comes to our overseas based players, where we have one dropped, another recalled and a third rejecting our attempt to call him up. Lets clear things up. Hong Kong based teenager Francisco Bhowmick was capped last time we played, and he did a decent job too. But he has since been let go by First Division club Fukien, and has dropped down several levels to play for Kowloon City District Sports & Recreation Club. He is playing regularly for them, but not especially well, and I can't pick him right now. Ideally, his replacement would have been another Belgian based player, 17 year old Germinal Beerschot centre back Francisco Reja, who is doing very well with their Youth side. That however has its own downside, as much like young keeper Aerts, that form has led him to decide that it is worth rejecting the call up for now in case there is a shot at playing for Belgium down the line. 

So instead, there is a recall to the squad for another overseas player, 25 year old Coventry born and dual British/Indian centre back, Rikki Bains. Another of the group of players first capped by now retired Bobby Houghton, the 6'1 defender has fitted a lot into his career already. A great start with hometown side Coventry quickly went downhill, and he moved on to Accrington Stanley of Coca-Cola League Two. Less than a handful of outings later and he started to bounce around the non-League scene, Leek Town, Tamworth and King's Lynn all giving him football, but not being impressed enough, Corby Town not even giving him a First Team opportunity. He was handed a lifeline by Macclesfield Town, and while it wasn't particularly successful, he did enough to earn himself a move north of the border to Brechin City. That first season saw him play plenty of football, and earn his India debut, but he didn't impress City too much, and after a second season with no football he returned to England, signing for Stafford Rangers of the Blue Square North. He did okay, but wasn't offered a new deal, and dropped down two levels to sign for Havant & Waterlooville. That saw the 2012/13 season go down as the best of his career, and his club did well in the Southern Premier Division, just missing out on promotion back to the Blue Square Leagues. One of his team mates is a player I signed twice, Northern Irish midfielder Aaron McElwee, who I signed for both Lurgan Celtic and Ayr United.

Thankfully, the other centre back positions fall into place much easier, as I keep the other three players selected in our last Senior Squad. The veteran of the bunch is 34 year old Deepak Mondal, who is still playing regularly, and well for Vasco SC, who he has signed for this season after leaving non-League club SC Goa where he had his best ever season. Should he be selected, he would win his 25th International Cap next weekend. He is joined by Ghana born but naturalised Indian 30 year old, James Dissiramah, who made his debut for India in my first ever squad, also notching his first ever International goal. The 5'10 defender has recently left Mumbai, his only Senior club in his career up to that point, and joined East Bengal on a Free Transfer. And his club colleague and new domestic centre back partner Manju Nanjangud Shivananju joins him in the squad, remaining part of the group after winning his 10th cap last time around.

Midfielders/Wingers
Lets move forward next into the area of the squad that really started to cause the heated debate in India, the midfielder and wingers. Of the ten selected, only four are retained from the last time I named a squad. There are multiple reasons for that, Climax Lawrence, the former Captain, is now past his best at almost 35 years of age, and his club form with Dempo SC would seem to back that up. With 18 caps to his name, I would say you should probably be surprised if you see his name crop up again. Right winger Steven Dias has a facial injury and is ruled out, while both left wingers Clifford Miranda and Reisangmi Vasum are left out for poor form and lack of football. Don't rule out seeing them again, particularly the latter, if they can recapture their best form. I was honest and up front about the fact that 19 year old France based midfielder Gautam Roy was capped last time out to lock him in as an Indian player, and remove the possibility of him switching allegiance to France, while Stirling Albion's own Midlands born British/Indian Dual National midfielder Aman Verma has simply fallen out of favour this time.

Retained from the previous squad are the 30 year old with ten International goals and hopes to win his 25th cap next weekend, Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, who continues to consistently be one of Mohun Bagan's better players. Italian based William Jidayi has changed clubs to move up a level with Serie C/1A side Ravenna, but he hasn't managed to force his way into the First Team as yet, making just one League appearance from the bench. That said, he is still easily one of the most naturally gifted players available to us, and it would be tough to leave him out right now, but I would love to see his situation improve. Six times capped defensive midfielder Mehrajuddin Wadoo has had an absolutely outstanding start to the campaign with Viva Kerala, currently captaining the club and being awarded man of the match twice in just five League games. He has also provided three assists in all competitions. The final of the quartet is 25 year old Sabri Gharbi, dual national of Belgium and India who has six caps and had a stand out season last campaign with East Bengal, and remains with them for now, but is attracting attention from clubs in Europe, particularly Bulgaria.

Half a dozen of the midfielders/wingers selected are brand new to the India squad and are now in line for their International Debuts next weekend, but a pair in particular, more accurately again, one in the main, have really caused the controversy that is dominating the football section of the nations sports pages. Karan Mollah will be sixteen next month, and plays for his hometown side, AS Poissy in the CFA, the fourth tier of French football. Is he good enough to play football for India right now? No, no he isn't. Can we afford to take the chance on passing him by and then maybe going on to see him become a solid player that we can't call upon because he has declared himself for France, or moves to play football in another country and takes nationality there and they cap him? No, not for the sake of a few minutes or more in a Friendly match that we should win anyway. A prominent member of the Indian FA has spoken out over this selection, stating that Mollah shouldn't be anywhere near our Senior squad, and that the decision to include him would indicate that I'm not taking the job seriously. I take huge issue with that. In fact, I would say my decision to select him would show that I am taking this role very seriously, trying to ensure that good young players with Indian ancestors are not lost to the nations Senior side for future years. He will be involved at some point next weekend.

Another attempt to do exactly the same thing failed when Danish based midfielder Sheikh Thakur rejected the chance to join our Senior squad. The 16 year old is also playing for his hometown club, FK Viborg in the Danish Premier Division, and has yet to make his First Team debut. A new three year contract at £550 per week and giving him a Transfer Market value over the £½ million mark would indicate how highly regarded he is though, and he is easily the best player the club has in its Youth system. Another French based player was happy to join up with the squad when asked however, and he plays for one of the European clubs with the best record for developing young players into future stars. 15 year old Amit Singh was born in New Dehli, but didn't start playing football properly until his family made the move to France when he was younger. Now he is one of the most highly rated young players in the whole of France, and FC Nantes is the perfect place for him to develop. He will also be involved this Window, as we plan to lock him into playing International football for India. There is no adverse reaction to his selection.

The next two players who have been selected and could make their International Debuts in Myanmar are both with domestic clubs. Kuldip Kumar is 21 year old midfielder who has served his time with India's Under-21 side, making thirteen appearances for the top age group team. He has been with Mahindra United from the age of sixteen, but it was a season long loan spell with SC Goa three seasons ago that really showcased his talents. He returned to United and immediately locked himself into a First Team place, improving his production again, before going on to have his best ever season last campaign, returning four goals and eight assists in twenty matches. His early season form has been good too, and he will get his chance, though it may not be this time with Mollah and Singh also earmarked to play a part. Joseph Pereira is much longer in the tooth when he gets his first chance to play International level football, the FC Kochin left winger could tick off a footballing ambition in the next week by playing for his nation. He was an SC Goa player for many years, but has become one of the players who is happy to move where the money is in recent years, changing teams in four of the last five seasons. This is his second straight season outside of the flagship League in the country, but his superb early season form could not be ignored.

The final pair of newcomers to the squad in the midfielders and wingers category are both also at differing stages of their careers, but are both playing overseas. The younger player is left winger Alan Cervinski, a Mumbai born 19 year old who has played the last two seasons in the National Football League with his hometown club, but has now recently relocated to Australia with his family. He has wasted no time in finding himself a new club, signing with non-League club Toowoomba Raiders, where he has instantly become a First Team regular. He hasn't been outstanding, but he is talented and ambitious, and we certainly wouldn't want to lose him to an Asian rival nation, especially with our lack of depth on the wings, and he is an Australian National. Across on the right wing is another newcomer to the squad who is based in Europe. 29 year old Raheem Alibhaï is a one club man, and actually had his pick of a quartet of nations. Born in Canada to parents with both French and Indian ancestry, he has spent his entire playing career in Belgium playing for Olympic Charleroi across the second and third tiers. His club are currently in the second tier, and he has played 179 times in the League for them, contributing 16 goals and 18 assists. He is quick and aggressive, not to mention very accurate with his crossing. I think he will make a huge difference to the quality of our squad, and is a very good addition now he has finally accepted an offer to join the squad after a recent change of heart.

Strikers
Finally, we move on to the strikers in the squad, five of them selected in all, but only two of them remain from the last squad I selected. Sunil Chetri seems to have settled quite well since his move from Vietnam to Greece, and has scored twice in his first half a dozen matches for AS Rodos, though the club has only one win and four points on the board so far, and may be involved in a relegation battle this season. Also included again is Mahindra United Captain and striker Chidi Edeh, who is Nigerian born and is in very good form with six goals in seven matches in all competitions to start the new season for United. That kind of form makes it impossible to leave him out.

There are three who have been left out after being selected last time out though. The most notable of that trio to miss out is Brazilian born JCT skipper and star striker, Edu, who has missed the start of the season with a groin strain that he has just about recovered from but is nowhere near match fit, and as such is left out. The rumours of him moving to Portugal haven't gone away, and I remain very much in favour of the 30 year old moving on and testing himself at a higher level. Yakubu Yusif was given his first cap in our double header last time out, but the Ghana born skipper of Salgaocar is now 35 years old, and while he has scored once in their opening two League matches, I've decided to leave him out this time and see if can continue his form to earn a recall at a later date. Also left out is Belgian born and based La Louvière Youth striker Tapan Janssens. He has yet to make any progress of note towards getting into the Belgian second tier clubs First Team, and while I'm glad we got him capped, we now need to see some progress from him if he is to accumulate more caps.

Those three are replaced by two recalled strikers, and a brand new addition to the India Squad. 21 year old Sandip Kumar absolutely deserves a recall and a chance to add to his one cap earned so far. The former Dempo player has been one of the most prolific strikers in Indian domestic football over the last three seasons, scoring 36 times in 59 League outings for East Bengal, and he is off and running this season as well. Also recalled is a striker who has a good record in International football, 27 year old Ranty Martins has three goals from his five caps so far. Another former Dempo player who scored goals by the bundles in India, he is now playing his third season of football in Lebanon with the Al-Nejmeh club. Also Nigerian born, his domestic goalscoring record is no less impressive than his International record, 188 games producing 118 goals. At 6'1, I'm hoping he is too physical for some of the smaller sides in Asian football.

Last, but by now means least, is the one striker who could win a first cap for India next weekend, and it's the arrival into the squad of 6'4 French based target man, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. Born in Kolkata, and a French National who has spent his entire career with AS Saint-Etienne, the 19 year old is highly regarded by his club. Perhaps guilty of not using his size and strength as much as he could, he isn't a one trick pony by any means, also bringing superb pace, and he has started the season very well with his clubs Reserve side. He will certainly be used at some point next weekend to get him capped.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Friday 11th October 2013
Last night myself and the players and staff of the Indian Senior National Team arrived in the Republic of Myanmar for the first away International match since I took charge of the team. A nation of around 55 million, and sitting east of India, right across the Bay of Bengal, meaning not a hugely long travel trip for us into South East Asia. In fact, part of the nations Western border is with India, as the Indian territory snakes it's way beyond the Northern Border of Bangladesh. The match takes place in the Southern city of Rangoon, which will soon be renamed, and become the former capital city, with that status due to be moved to the purpose built central city of Naypyidaw.

Tomorrow's match will be staged at the Aung San Memorial Stadium, a 45,000 capacity ground that is expected to be anything up to around two thirds full for the match. The stadium is now over a century old, and looks every bit its age too. Today it is the venue for the pre-match press conferences, where the travelling Indian football journalists have speculated that I am likely to experiment heavily with the team for this match.

Nine times capped goalkeeper Subrata Pal of East Bengal tells the assembled media that the squad are fairly confident of a win tomorrow, which would give both the team and the nation as a whole a lift. Meanwhile, after indicating that I was getting pretty sick of being asked if Karan Mollah was capable of playing International level football, I was asked exactly the same question of several of the other potential young new players I had selected. It's worth noting that I wasn't asked the question about the squads youngest player, Amit Singh.

Saturday 12th October

International Friendly
Aung San Memorial Stadium, Rangoon, Myanmar
Myanmar (189th) v India (184th)
Attendance :-
27,082. Weather :- Dry, 29c.

From our last selection, the defeat at home against Thailand, there are multiple changes. I dearly wished we had two Friendly matches in this Window, but it's just one, and so there are decisions to be made. Jasbir Singh is given the nod in goal ahead of Mohammed Hossain, while there is one change to the back four, veteran Deepak Mondal is recalled and Captains the side in place of Francisco Bhowmick who wasn't selected in the squad. There are two more changes on the wings, with both Raheem Alibhaï and Joseph Pereira both making their International debuts. There is one further change made up front, Yakubu Yusif's omission from the squad leaves a place open, and that is filled by the recalled Ranty Martins. So only two debutants selected to start, considerably less than most people expected. However, another six of the nine substitutes named could also make their International bow if they came on from the substitutes bench, which includes both of the 15 year old's selected in the squad.

It was a slow start to the match by both sides, but it didn't take long for us to establish that new cap Raheem Alibhaï had the legs on Myanmar left back Aung Ko Moe, and he set about torturing him with his pace at every opportunity, breezing past him several times in the opening twenty minutes, the most dangerous of the crosses hooked away at the far post at the last second with Chidi Edeh waiting for the ball to drop. It would be fair to say that our hosts were lacking in technical ability, but Aung Myint Oo's half volley on the half hour mark was only just over the angle of the goal frame. But with five minutes to go till the break, we were on the front foot once again, Edeh swinging the ball to the right for Alibhaï, and he beat his marker once again, before sending in another cross, this one to the near post, where Ranty Martins stole in between a defender and the keeper, and got just enough on his glanced header to guide it inside the far post and put us in front. One nil at half time.

I was happy with what I had seen, and really wanted to see us get a second goal to put the match into what I would consider as a safe position, as I didn't believe Myanmar had a pair of goals in them. So I made just one change at the break, introducing 15 year old Amit Singh into the action for his International debut, as he replaced William Jidayi, who was struggling for match fitness. Singh became the youngest ever Indian International player, and passed up an early chance to shoot soon after the restart, Ajay Bailleux overlapping and cutting the ball back just outside the box, Singh deciding to play it safe and pick a short pass to Edeh, the play breaking down when Paramjit Kumar's attempted cross from the left was blocked. Moments later when another pass was sent to Edeh, it was an entirely different story. Bailleux's short throw found Alibhaï, and the winger turned inside to beat a pair of markers, and then sliced the Myanmar defence open with a through ball, Edeh held his move perfectly, stepping off the shoulder of the last defender as the ball came through, and it found him eight yards out. He brought it under control, and then slammed it over Aung Myo Zaw's shoulder, and high into the roof of the net to make it a two goal lead. Now I felt we were fairly comfortable, enough to send a bunch of the subs out for an extensive warm up. The confidence was growing in the team, and when Bailleux received the ball back from a short throw in and again picked out Singh on the corner of the box, he was prepared to shoot this time, only just sending his shot too high as he went tried to send it inside the near post. This was a perfect chance to get some more players involved, and off went skipper Deepak Mondal, Joseph Pereira and Martins, with Rikki Bains coming on, along with two debutants, Alan Cervinski and Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. There was finally some proper work for Jasbir Singh to do with fifteen minutes left, Myo Min Thein's free kick was well struck, but our Scottish based keeper tipped it over fairly easily. He wasn't worked at all when substitute Min Min Zaw got into the box, his effort across goal missing the target. When Bailleux took a slight knock with a little under ten minutes to play, I took the chance to hand out another debut, this time to Naoba Singh, and then with just three minutes left to play, I used my final substitution, introducing the second of the 15 year old's, as Karan Mollah came on to replace Sabri Gharbi. You could almost hear the commotion from the Indian football journalists in the press box as they raced to get their thoughts on his appearance in to their editors. And if they were against his appearance, he almost turned them within moments, as with seconds left in injury time, Shafiqul Islam Chowdbury flicked on a diagonal ball, and got it to Edeh, who held it up and rolled it into the path of Mollah. He took a touch and went for goal, a left footed curler that was headed for the top corner until it was touched over the bar at the last second by Myo Zaw. What a story that would have been, Edeh giving the teen a slap on the back for his effort.

Myanmar (0) 0
India (1) 2
-
Ranty Martins (40), Chidi Edeh (56)
Jasbir Singh; Ajay Bailleux (inj - Naoba Singh 81), Deepak Mondal © (Rikki Bains 66), James Dissiramah, Paramjit Kumar; Sabri Gharbi (Karan Mollah 87), William Jidayi (Amit Singh 45); Raheem Alibhaï, Joseph Pereira (Alan Cervinski 66); Chidi Edeh, Ranty Martins (Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury 66).

Unused Substitutes :- Mohammed Hossain (GK), Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, Kuldip Kumar.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 42% - 58%. Man of the Match :- Raheem Alibhaï (India).

You will struggle to find too many more comfortable 2-0 wins than that one this International Window, and the only regret is that we maybe should have got a few more goals. Still a clean sheet, multiple new Senior International players, and a superb debut on the right wing for one that resulted in two assists and a man of the match display, Raheem Alibhaï will certainly be a player who can give us an edge in close matches I believe.

Of the other debutants, the best of the rest was undoubtedly Amit Singh. The fifteen year old didn't look out of place in the slightest, showing a great touch with the ball at his feet during his second half appearance, and ended with a 90% pass completion rate, a 75% tackle success rate, and even a 66% rate of winning headers despite being only 5'9 tall.

Of the others, both Jospeh Pereira and Alan Cervinski were pretty quiet on the left as a large amount of our attacks came down the right through Alibhaï. There was a fairly seamless change behind him when Noaba Singh replaced Ajay Bailleux late on, while Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury won some key headers and put himself in position to create good spaces for his team mates. As for Karan Mollah's brief outing, well if that curler had found the top corner, that would have been the story of the afternoon for sure. I was disappointed not to be able to offer either Kuldip or Sandip Kumar (not related as far as I know) a game this time, but if they keep up their domestic form, there will I'm sure be plenty more chances for them in the future.

Sunday 13th October
We return to India, and the squad gets ready to break up and head back to their club sides, with the next get together not scheduled to be until June next year, where we are due to be visited in Kolkata by The Philippines for an International Friendly. They were beaten 3-1 in Sri Lanka today, and as such it is very possible that we will be ahead of them when the next set of FIFA World Rankings are released. We are hoping for a pretty hefty rise after that win with some good points coming our way.

We get official confirmation that Amit Singh is the new youngest ever Indian International player, winning his first cap yesterday at the age of 15 years and 151 days, the previous record was held by Azadur Barman, who was 16 years and 290 days old when he debuted in a Friendly against Saudi Arabia in June 2009.

The star attraction is another of India's new football stars though, as Raheem Alibhaï gets through a raft of interviews for television, radio, online content and printed media before he is allowed to leave for Belgium and return to his club, Olypmpic Charleroi. He sticks to the line that he is now hoping to continue his form with his club to ensure he is selected for the next International Window. I would say that it's very likely he will be involved.

Monday 14th October
The squad are now mostly back with their clubs, and one player who didn't feature during this International Window is said to be the next contender to possibly get a move overseas. Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep is only one cap away from hitting the quarter of a century for his country, and he is in double figures for International goals. He is in fine early season form for Mohun Bagan, which is nothing unusual, but he was sacrificed this time to allow us to get some debutants capped.

He has caught the attention of Indonesia Super League side, Arema Malang, once National Champions in 1993, and twice Indonesian Cup Winners, with back to back success in 2005 and 2006. They are currently sitting in a high mid table spot, and they have a spare Foreign player spot in their squad. It's a League where the Foreign players are highly regarded on each squad, often the difference between the clubs, and usually amongst the highest paid players at any given club. Should the club make a move for him, and if he were interested, Pappachan Pradeep would likely see his current £250 a week salary jump up by a multiple of five or six times as an estimate.

Wednesday 16th October
It's a date we have had ringed on the calendar as important. It is the day where the new FIFA World Rankings are released, and it brings great news for us. We rise 22 spots from 184th place, and up into the lofty heights of joint 162nd. We amassed an additional 25 points for that victory in Myanmar, giving us a new total of 54 points.

We have moved ahead of nations such as next opponents The Philippines, continental rivals Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Palestine, and European sides Andorra, Malta and Azerbaijan. Another European nation are not too far in front of us now either, with Luxembourg just five spots and six points ahead of us.

The move upwards is also good news for our immediate goal of placing high enough amongst the Asian nations to be able to compete in the Qualifying Rounds for the Asian Nations Cup as well. We are now ranked 31st of the 46 nations in the continent, improving our position by five spots. A look at the table below will also show there is still plenty of nations in front of us that we would be expected to be able to move past as we continue our surge up the Rankings.

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FIFA World Rankings, as of Wednesday 16th October 2013

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |
 
| 153rd              | Dominican Republic               | -                  | 76                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 154th              | Tanzania                         | -                  | 66                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 155th              | Madagascar                       | +6                 | 65                 |
|   =                | Sierra Leone                     | -4                 | 65                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 157th              | Kenya                            | +7                 | 61                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 158th              | Luxembourg                       | +7                 | 60                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 159th              | Brunei Darussalam                | +8                 | 58                 |
|   =                | Lesotho                          | -3                 | 58                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 161st              | Mongolia                         | -10                | 57                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 162nd              | Central African Republic         | +7                 | 54                 |
|   =                | India                            | +21                | 54                 |
|   =                | Nicaragua                        | +7                 | 54                 |
|   =                | Puerto Rico                      | +7                 | 54                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 166th              | Azerbaijan                       | -3                 | 50                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 167th              | Swaziland                        | +6                 | 49                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 168th              | Comoros                          | -2                 | 47                 |
|   =                | Palestine                        | -11                | 47                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 170th              | Chad                             | -8                 | 44                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 171st              | Chinese Taipei (China PR)        | -12                | 41                 |
|   =                | Malaysia                         | -17                | 41                 |
|   =                | Montserrat                       | -3                 | 41                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Asian Nations in the FIFA World Rankings, as of Wednesday 16th October 2013

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |

| 15th               | South Korea                      | -2                 | 1207               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 23rd               | Australia                        | -3                 | 1075               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 32nd               | Saudi Arabia                     | -6                 | 963                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 34th               | China PR                         | +8                 | 934                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 50th               | Japan                            | -6                 | 797                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 59th               | Iran                             | -3                 | 675                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 71st               | United Arab Emirates             | -1                 | 513                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 75th               | Uzbekistan                       | +1                 | 495                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 76th               | Qatar                            | -3                 | 480                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 83rd               | Indonesia                        | +6                 | 383                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 85th               | Bahrain                          | -1                 | 379                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 86th               | Kuwait                           | +6                 | 373                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 87th               | Oman                             | +3                 | 372                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 94th               | Singapore                        | -                  | 310                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 99th               | Iraq                             | -                  | 270                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 105th              | Thailand                         | +7                 | 221                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 109th              | Syria                            | +7                 | 206                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 118th              | Lebanon                          | +2                 | 177                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 121st              | Vietnam                          | -3                 | 172                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 125th              | Tajikistan                       | -2                 | 159                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 127th              | Jordan                           | +3                 | 145                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 130th              | Hong Kong (China PR)             | +15                | 142                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 132nd              | Yemen                            | +5                 | 132                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 134th              | North Korea                      | +10                | 123                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 140th              | Bangladesh                       | -2                 | 110                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 141st              | Kyrgyzstan                       | +8                 | 109                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 149th              | Turkmenistan                     | -7                 | 90                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 152nd              | Maldives                         | +8                 | 82                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 159th              | Brunei Darussalam                | +8                 | 58                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 161st              | Mongolia                         | -10                | 57                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 163rd              | India                            | +21                | 54                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 169th              | Palestine                        | -11                | 47                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 171st              | Chinese Taipei (China PR)        | -12                | 41                 |
|   =                | Malaysia                         | -17                | 41                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 177th              | Sri Lanka                        | +21                | 38                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 180th              | The Philippines                  | -12                | 35                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 185th              | Bhutan                           | +1                 | 25                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 188th              | Guam                             | -                  | 24                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 190th              | Nepal                            | -12                | 22                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 194th              | Pakistan                         | -1                 | 17                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 196th              | East Timor                       | -                  | 14                 |
|   =                | Myanmar                          | -8                 | 14                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 201st              | Cambodia                         | -1                 | 8                  |
|   =                | Macau (China PR)                 | -1                 | 8                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 203rd              | Afghanistan                      | -1                 | 7                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 206th              | Laos                             | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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November/December 2013
Competitive football finally, the first since I became manager of India. But I won't be in charge, as it is the age group side, the Under-20's specifically who take to the International Stage. Not much about football in Asia makes much sense to a person of logic, and that includes the organisation of this mini-tournament, as the continent's Under-20 sides prepare to do battle in Qualification......for the AFC 2014 Under-19 Asian Championships. Go figure.

Seven Groups, each containing six nations are drawn, with nations then able to make proposal's to host their Group and secure a home advantage. The top two in each Group will Qualify, joining the holders (Japan) in the sixteen nation Finals next year, along with the best third placed nation. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Laos do not take part.

The draw is made and pushes India into Group B. The larger reputation football nations in the Group are undoubtedly Iran and Iraq. We also have a bit of a dark horse nation drawn in with us in Jordan. Our fiercest rivals are also in our Group, that being Pakistan. The bottom seeds in this half dozen will be Kyrgyzstan. The winners of the race to host are Iran, and they select the Azadi Stadium in the capital city of Tehran to host the matches. It's a 76,907 capacity all seater stadium, which was built in the early 1970's in preparation for the 1974 Asian Games, and the 1976 AFC Asian Cup.

The stadium will be very busy over the ten days of competition, as it will host every match. With games starting on Sunday 17th November, each game day will see an early afternoon, late afternoon and evening match played back to back at the Azadi. The order of the matches on each day is assigned by the hosts, one of the further advantages of gaining the home advantage. With the first matches on the Sunday, there will then be further game days on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and finally a three day rest before the final round of matches on Wednesday 27th November. All six nations will play on each game day.

I said I would not be getting involved, and that was a mistake, one I won't be repeating. The squad was selected by Ghanesh Sharma, a 61 year old who is also the Manager of National Football League side, Dempo Sports Club. He could, and should, have picked a much stronger squad for this Qualification series. With it being an AFC sanctioned event, he could have called up our European based youngsters should he wished. Instead, he picked an entirely domestic based squad to head to Tehran.

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Squad for AFC 2014 Under-19 Asian Championships Group B Qualifiers at Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran
vs Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan & Jordan between Sunday 17th November - Wednesday 27th November 2013

| Name                           | Position   | Club                        | Height  | Age     | Value   | Caps | Goals |
 
| Mohammed Barua                 | GK         | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'9"    | 19      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Azadur Sultan                  | GK         | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'7"    | 18      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Seby Kumar                     | GK         | Dempo SC                    | 5'7"    | 18      | £2K     |   -  |   -   |
| Mohammed Babu*                 | GK         | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'9"    | 17      | £80K    |   -  |   -   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Mandeep Rao                    | D L, WB L  | Mumbai FC                   | 5'9"    | 19      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Wilson Das                     | D C        | Mahindra United             | 5'7"    | 19      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Dinesh Fernandes               |D C, DM, M C| Dempo SC                    | 5'9"    | 18      | £2K     |   -  |   -   |
| Jose Paul                      | D C        | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'9 "   | 21      | £5K     |   3  |   0   |
| Zahid Liton                    | D C        | Salgaocar                   | 5'7 "   | 21      | £1K     |   2  |   0   |
| Gumpe Singh                    | D C        | East Bengal                 | 5'7"    | 21      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Minguel Chetri                 | D C        | Mohammedan SC               | 5'11"   | 21      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Freddy Basheer                 | D RC       | Air India                   | 5'10"   | 19      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Steven Colaco*                 | D C        | Churchill Bros              | 5'7"    | 19      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Vinod Ghosh*                   | D RC       | SC Goa                      | 5'7"    | 20      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Satish Das*                    | D C        | Assam Dynamo                | 5'6"    | 19      | -       |   -  |   -   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Shahidul Islam Islam           | M C        | East Bengal                 | 5'7"    | 21      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Anwar                          | D C, M C   | East Bengal                 | 5'9"    | 16      | £70K    |   -  |   -   |
| Philip Paite                   | DM, M C    | Air India                   | 5'9"    | 20      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Nurul Islam                    | DM, M C    | Mohun Bagan                 | 5'8"    | 18      | £3K     |   -  |   -   |
| Bharat Noronha                 | DM, M LC   | Churchill Bros              | 5'9"    | 18      | £2K     |   -  |   -   |
| Yadwinder Khan                 | M C        | Bengal Mumbai               | 5'8"    | 21      | £2K     |   3  |   -   |
| Subhash Rao                    | AM RC      | Viva Kerala                 | 5'9"    | 20      | £14K    |   -  |   -   |
| Naresh Reja                    | AM L       | SC Goa                      | 5'9"    | 18      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Santosh Hakkim                 | AM LC      | Madras Engineering Group    | 5'7"    | 17      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Mohammed Nayan                 | M C        | Bengal-Magpur Railway Club  | 5'9"    | 18      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Asif Hossain*                  | M C        | Churchill Bros              | 5'8"    | 20      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Manjit Singh*                  | WB R, M R  | Mahindra United             | 5'8"    | 19      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Prasanta Borges*               | M C        | SC Goa                      | 5'8"    | 20      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Felix Basheer                  | ST         | Mahindra Utd                | 5'8"    | 19      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
| Mohammed Chowdhury             | ST         | Air India                   | 5'8"    | 19      | £35K    |   -  |   -   |
| Ashish Morje                   | ST         | East Bengal                 | 5'8"    | 21      | £5K     |   -  |   -   |
| Bhupinder Das                  | ST         | Vasco SC                    | 5'7"    | 18      | £45K    |   -  |   -   |
| Gaurav Ghosh*                  | ST         | SC Goa                      | 5'8"    | 19      | -       |   -  |   -   |
| Asif Ali*                      | ST         | Mumbai FC                   | 5'7"    | 20      | £1K     |   1  |   0   |
| Steven Chakraborty*            | ST         | Churchill Bros              | 6'0"    | 20      | £1K     |   -  |   -   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Indicates not in original squad and called up to replace an injured player
**Caps and Goals stats are compiled from Senior Internationals only

So Ghanesh Sharma selects a squad of twenty five entirely from domestic clubs, but over the course of the week and a half mini-tournament he is forced into making ten changes due to injuries. It's a squad that is low on quality, but there are a few players who could have the potential to progress through the ranks.

Mohammed Barua is easily the best of the selected keepers, but at 5'9 he is badly lacking the height to play at the top level in my opinion. Jose Paul is his team mate at club side Mohun Bagan, and he looks a decent player, and already has three Senior caps, but again his height is a concern to play at centre back against the better nations on the continent. Zahid Liton is shorter still, and the Salgaocar centre back also has a pair of caps. You can add Satish Das of Regional club Assam Dynamo to the list of players who look good, but might struggle in better company. I don't understand what the previous manager was thinking about, no wonder the nation slipped so far down the FIFA World Rankings. We do at least have a prospect worth keeping an eye on at left back, where we are not blessed with great depth. Mandeep Rao is very attack minded, and even from that position he is averaging a goal every three games for Mumbai FC in the flagship league of domestic football in India.

Subhash Rao is a decent looking prospect on the right wing, and he has had a superb start to the season with Viva Kerala, who he has recently signed for. He does need to show some consistency if he is to progress his career to the next level though. Centre midfielder Yadwinder Khan has already earned three caps, but leaving Mohun Bagan might have been a mistake. His early season form is outstanding, but it's at a fairly poor playing level. He's worth keeping an eye on though. The shining star in the midfield looks to be 16 year old Anwar. In his first ever season with a Senior side he has already made the First Team at East Bengal, and now he has represented his nation at age group level as well. Keep an eye on that young lad. Mohammed Nayan may also fall in the same bracket, if he gets himself a move away from Bengal-Magpur Railway Club to a decent side, and then cracks the First Team.

East Bengal also seem to have themselves a real talent up front in Ashish Morje, a natural goalscorer who scored a goal every other game last season for SC Goa, and is doing even better now with his new club, notching eleven goals in sixteen matches so far this season. With Air India now playing in the National Football League as well, Mohammed Chowdhury is another decent looking striker, and if he continues to find the net as he has in the opening weeks, the sky could be the limit for him.

So, how did the Qualifiers go?
Well, it was a rough start on the Sunday as they played in the evening match against the hosts, Iran. They must have been wondering why they chose such a huge venue when less than 500 fans showed up for the match. It didn't impact them too badly though, as a goal midway through the second half from the very talented right winger Vahid Hosaini got the hosts off to a winning start, and meant India would be chasing the pack, with Iraq also opening day winners after Jordan and Kyrgyzstan had played out a draw in the opener.

The half dozen nations returned to the same venue on Tuesday, with India this time pitched into the late afternoon time slot against opening day winners, Iraq. A win for fierce rivals Pakistan in the early game may have spurred our young side on, but a first half penalty gave Iraq the advantage at the break. Don't write us off though, as prolific young East Bengal striker Ashish Morje levelled the match with just over quarter of an hour to play, and then he netted a winner in the last five minutes. Iran beating Jordan in the late match may actually have done us a favour too.

On to Thursday then, and Iraq and Jordan draw the opening match of the day, which will mean we're in a very good position, if we can notch a win over Pakistan. The biggest crowd of the event so far for a non-Iran match watched on as our rotated side opened the scoring in the 14th minute through Mahindra United striker Felix Basheer. We would turn the heat up early in the second half with a second goal through talented midfielder Mohammed Nayan of Bengal-Magpur Railway Club. The Captain for the tournament, Philip Paite of Air India wrapped up the points with a 77th minute goal, and with two matches remaining, we are looking in good shape. It's Kyrgyzstan up next, and after an opening day draw, followed by a close match with Pakistan, they have been thumped 5-0 by Iran in the evening match, a game that attracted the first crowd of over 1,000 so far.

Saturday, the penultimate day of the tournament, and we open proceedings today in the early afternoon kick off. With the next game not for three days after this one, the strongest side possible is selected again, and it paid off. Two goals in the opening ten minutes through left winger Bharat Noronha of Churchill Bros and Subhash Rao of Viva Kerala give us the best start possible. Nurlan Galiev did pull one back from the penalty spot for Kyrgyzstan, but centre back Steven Colaco became the second Churchill Bros player to find the net today. A two goal lead at the break was quickly extended with two penalties in the space of five minutes, Gaurav Ghosh of SC Goa tucking them both away. And Philip Paite scored his second goal of the tournament late on to wrap up a thumping 6-1 win. It would be an evening of celebration, as Iraq lost to Iran, confirming ourselves and the hosts as the Qualifiers from this Group.

Wednesday, the day before my birthday and the curtain would fall on this mini-tournament. Iraq opened the day, playing only in the hope of claiming the spot available for the third place nation with the best record. They won 2-0 against a Kyrgyzstan side that had been proven well out of their depth and would finish bottom with a single point and just one goal to their name. It would now be the waiting game for the Iraqis. The hosts were up next, knowing that avoiding defeat to Pakistan would confirm their status as Group Winners. They survived a scare and the late threat of a comeback to record a 3-2 win and clinch Group B, another of their outstanding young players Ali Farahani finding the net. All that meant our match against Jordan was a dead rubber. Try telling the players that, Churchill Bros midfielder Asif Hossain scored ten minutes before the break, and Mumbai FC left back Mandeep Rao scored from the spot early in the second half to complete a 2-0 win. 

Four wins from five, losing only to the very talented and hosting Group Winners from Iran. I may not necessarily have agreed with large parts of Ghanesh Sharma's selection, but the 61 year old Dempo SC boss had got the job done for us, and India will take part in next years AFC Under-19 Asian Championship Finals in China.

AFC 2014 Under-19 Asian Championship Qualifying, Group B. Final Table.

| Pos   | Inf   | Team       |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | Q     | Iran       |       | 5     | 5     | 0     | 0     | 15    | 2     | +13   | 15    |
| 2nd   | Q     | India      |       | 5     | 4     | 0     | 1     | 13    | 3     | +10   | 12    |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 3rd   |       | Iraq       |       | 5     | 2     | 1     | 2     | 6     | 7     | -1    | 7     |
| 4th   |       | Jordan     |       | 5     | 1     | 2     | 2     | 3     | 7     | -4    | 5     |
| 5th   |       | Pakistan   |       | 5     | 1     | 0     | 4     | 6     | 10    | -4    | 3     |
| 6th   |       | Kyrgyzstan |       | 5     | 0     | 1     | 4     | 1     | 15    | -14   | 1     |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Finals Tournament will be drawn in early March next year, with the event taking place over October and November. The opposition will be very tough, and as such I intend to select the squad for the Finals (if I can find a way for the game to do that) but allow Ghanesh Sharma to continue in his role in charge of the age group side.

When I say the competition will be tough, I'm not joking. Shocks are not really common place in Asian Football at International level, and ourselves Qualifying ahead of the likes of Iraq and Jordan certainly ranks as one. It's not something that is replicated through the other Groups to a huge degree, though there are some reasons to suspect the tide of power may be shifting ever so slightly.

In Group A, which was hosted by Bangladesh, there were some surprises. Not in the Group Winner, as Saudi Arabia easily progressed with a 100% record and conceding just one goal. But neither Bahrain or Uzbekistan would join them, as Palestine edged out the hosts for the second spot by virtue of their goals scored record after beating them 2-0 on the final day to level the nations on points and goal difference.

Group C was hosted by Nepal, which didn't prevent them from finishing bottom of the pile in Kathmandu. There, it was the Australians who won the Group, dropping their only points in a 1-1 draw with Syria in the penultimate round, a result which contributed to Syria taking the second Qualifying berth ahead of Qatar, who at least had the consolation prize of securing the best third place berth.

Group D was probably the weakest group of the seven. Held in Kuwait City, that was expected to give the advantage to two of the Middle Eastern nations in this section. And it did, for one of them, as the United Arab Emirates went through the schedule unbeaten with three wins and two draws. But they would not be joined by Kuwait, who missed out after being held to draws in their final two matches by Bhutan and the Maldives. With Yemen propping up the table, it was the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan who swooped in to take their place in next years Finals.

Group E was contested in Macau, and was as straightforward as you could get really, in fact, it replicated our own Group in many ways. Malaysia beat Singapore on the opening day in a match that would ultimately decide the outcome of the Group as both sides won each of their remaining four games to Qualify with relative ease. That left the hosts, Chinese Taipei, Vietnam and Myanmar to fight it out over minor placings only.

In Group F, the hosts of next years Finals were not even given the right to host their Group, never mind an automatic place in the Finals themselves. No, China would have to Qualify like everyone else, and they made short work of that in East Timor, sweeping everyone aside with a 100% record and seventeen goals in five matches. Indonesia secured their place in next years event with wins in each of their four remaining matches, as an otherwise weak group saw East Timor come out ahead of Guam, Brunei and Mongolia.

Finally, it's Group G, which saw another highly ranked Asian nation waltz through their Group, as South Korea also produced a 100% record, though failing to convince many of their quality on the way. Hong Kong actually outscored the Group Winners on their way to clinching the second Qualifying spot, with The Philippines and North Korea some way behind, and Thailand eventually only just doing enough to avoid finishing below Cambodia.

Anything Else of Note Happening?
Not a huge amount of significance is the answer to that. In club matters, I did predict that Sunil Chetri's first season in Greece would likely see him and his new club AS Rodos involved in a relegation battle. That appears to have been quite the understatement. Now almost exactly halfway through the season, they have just one single win and only six points in National B Division, leaving them nine points from safety. That poor form cost Dimitris Spanos his job, and in his place they hired Vasilis Kyrkos. There is always a danger that a new manager may not like the player as much, and he could see a drop in his minutes on the park. But the squad at Rodos is so desperately thin, that is unlikely to be the case here, despite his form not being particularly good.

India is likely to lose two of it's elder players from the National Pool in the near future. Climax Lawrence is the Captain of Dempo SC, and formerly the Captain of his country, but was unlikely to feature again at International level, the 34 year old midfielder has 18 caps to his name, but his form has started to tail off fairly heavily. That may not have been the case for 35 year old Salgaocar Captain and Ghanaian born striker Yakubu Yusif, who I gave a first cap to this year. He has been in excellent scoring form in domestic football this year, so news that he is also considering his future is a bit of a surprise despite his age.

With just three fixtures arranged for next year, and it seemingly being a case of the earlier you arrange them, the better your chances, I start to fill in the calendar for 2015. It's not ideal, we don't know how much we're going to progress and what quality of opposition we would ideally like, but it is what it is. Our provisional 2015 calendar now has four Friendly International dates included. We have a home match against Kyrgyzstan in February, followed by a two game tour of East/South East Asia in June, with a match slated against Chinese Taipei, followed by a likely sterner test four days later in Hanoi against Vietnam. Depending on the scheduling of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, we then have a provisional date in October for a home match against European visitors, with Azerbaijan on standby to play us in Kolkata.

2013 ends with the traditional naming of 'Best Eleven's', with a Team of the Year, and a Best Ever XI voted on and named.

India Team of the Year 2013 :-
Subrata Pal 

Ajay Bailleux,  Deepak Mondal,  Rikki Bains,  Paramjit Kumar 

Raheem Alibhaï,  Sabri Gharbi,  William Jidayi,  Jospeh Pereira 

Chidi Edeh,  Ranty Martins
 

Substitutes :- James Dissiramah, Jasbir Singh (GK), Manju Nanjangud Shivananju, Amit Singh, Alan Cervinski, Edu, Yakubu Yusif.

A bit of a shambles really, mostly due to the fact that only three matches were played all year and the side and squad showed numerous changes on each match day. The inclusions of newly selected French based duo Raheem Alibhaï and teenager Amit Singh are noted, with right winger Alibhaï setting a new average rating record of 7.80, albeit he only played one match.

Three of this years current players have been inducted into the Best Ever India XI, giving you the first indication that the bar hasn't been set particularly high. Your second indicator is that Sabri Gharbi was selected as the pick of the new inductees, with an average rating of 6.25. Hmmmmmm. Deepak Mondal and newcomer Raheem Alibhaï are also included.

India Best Ever XI
Sandip Nandy (Retired)


Ajay Bailleux,  Deepak Mondal,  Manju Nanjangud Shivananju,  Nallappan Mohanraj


Raheem Alibhaï,  Sabri Gharbi,  Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep,  Renedy Singh


Baichung Bhutia (Retired),  Chidi Edeh

Substitutes :- Dulal Bhattacharya, Subrata Pal (GK), Mehrajuddin Wadoo, William Jidayi, Aman Verma, Sunil Chetri, Ranty Martins.

The final bit of business is to announce the Asian Footballer of the Year, which to no one's surprise went to Everton's veteran midfielder Tim Cahill. The Australian is still playing International football at the age of 34, now amassing 67 caps and 30 goals for the Socceroos. His form this year for Everton has been superb, playing at an average rating of 7.42 over 25 games in all competitions, with five goals in eight appearances in the UEFA Europa League a particular highlight.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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