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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 With no football, India lost ranking points that were no longer valid, and tumbled down the rankings.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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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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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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**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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January 2014
The new FIFA World Rankings are released, and we suffer a small drop of three places, taking us down to 166th. Our points total has dropped slightly down to 50. There is still plenty of work to be done, and we get a lesson in that from the small Oceania nation of Vanuatu. They are the big movers of January, rocketing 34 places up the Rankings into 102nd place after the OCE Nations Cup. They went through December unbeaten with two wins and a pair of goalless draws in the Qualifiers. In the Finals themselves, things didn't quite go so well, draws with Tahiti and Papua New Guinea in between defeats against the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

Before the end of the month, we lose one of our matches for 2015. We were due to host Azerbaijan in October, they would have been the first European visitors to play a Full International for over twenty years. But that match has now been cancelled, as the Azeri's have had a better offer, a European Championship Qualifier in Hungary.

February 2014
Three African nations now have their positions available following the 2014 African Cup of Nations. Morocco, as well as both Cameroon and Ghana who will take part in the FIFA World Cup this coming summer have all sacked their managers after being eliminated from the tournament in the Group Stages. The African Nations are not known for their patience when it comes to their managers.

Without playing, and without our points total changing at all, we have moved back up one spot in the new edition of the FIFA World Rankings. We are now sat in 165th place. The biggest movers are Senegal, who have moved from 54th to 22nd after a first ever triumph in the recent African Cup of Nations in Libya.

March 2014
We gain another place this month, pushing ourselves back up another spot to 164th. There is no change in our points total, which remains at 50.

That isn't the main event of the month of March however, as the draw has been made for the Finals of the 2014 Asian Under-19 Championships, which was due to take place in China later this year, but has now been switched to Japan. And our young lads will face the new hosts as well, as they are drawn into Group B. That will be the second game, and will take place in the Nagai Athletic Stadium in Osaka. It comes two days after the lads open their campaign against Qatar at the Ajinomoto Stadium in the capital city, Tokyo. And our youngsters will remain in Osaka for their final Group B match, their third in five days, as they face Indonesia. Not an easy Group at all, but none of them are. If it is possible, I will be selecting the squad for the Finals without taking charge of the side.

April 2014
Another quiet month on the International front, and there is no change in Ranking or Points for India this month. The main news is the relegation of AS Rodos from Greek National B Division with four games still to play, and that means that striker Sunil Chetri is quite likely to be on the move again soon. The striker hasn't done too bad a job at all, scoring eleven times in twenty five League matches for a side with only three wins on the board. It's quite possible that he will stay in Greece too, with reported interest from MGS Panserraikos and SFK Pierikos, both higher budget clubs who play in the same division.

Elsewhere, JCT striker Edu has finally agreed a move. But it isn't to Portugal as many expected for the Brazilian born 31 year old. Another double figure League goal season has persuaded Mohun Bagan to purchase him for next season. It is possible once capped 21 year old goalkeeper Mohammed Hossain could be moving in the opposite direction. JCT have noted that the keeper has played more cup football in domestic and continental competitions than he has in the League, and have made an offer for him. The goalkeeper in front of him in the pecking order right now, Airdrie United stopper Jasbir Singh, is once more reported to be a target for Coca-Cola League Two side, Morecambe.

Other members of the Senior side rumoured to be on the move include right back Ajay Bailleux, who could leave Pune for another non-top flight club, Mohammedan, who could be looking to offer a player who has already proved he'll go where the money is, a better financial package. William Jidayi's season with Ravenna has been a bit of a wash out, with only two starts in all competitions this season. He is rumoured to be weighing up a move back down a level with Gela. Meanwhile, it has been a very impressive season for new cap left winger Joseph Pereira, and the 31 year old FC Kochin man is looking to cash in, with a move to Pune FC all but done.

May 2015
It's stalemate once more on the FIFA World Rankings front, as we remain in 164th place with 50 points. With a match against the Philippines in early June, I am hoping we can record a win and give ourselves another shift up the Rankings before we assess the latest batch of young Indian footballers who are set to take their first steps in their journey towards becoming Senior Professional players. The Philippines will go into our Friendly in Kolkata with a World Ranking of 176th and 36 points to their name. We will go into that match without two of our defenders from the last squad, deputy left back Dulal Bhattacharya of East Bengal has a damaged elbow, while Ghana born centre back James Dissiramah of the same club has a sprained ankle.

I have now been in the job as India Senior National Manager for a year, during that time overseeing an improvement in the nations FIFA World Ranking of 38 places, and a points increase of 46. In addition, seventeen players have been brought into the squad and awarded their first Senior International caps, as we have won two of the three games I have been in charge of. Also, the Under-19 squad have successfully Qualified for the 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, which will take place later this year in China. It hasn't been a bad first year in charge at all.

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Sunday 1st June 2014
                                                                                                                               **SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
                                                                                        India Senior Squad for Friendly International vs Philippines - (H) 7/6/14

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

| Jasbir Singh                   | GK        | Airdrie Utd (SCO)            | 6'0"    | 23      | -       |   2  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain               | GK        | JCT                          | 6'1"    | 21      | £5K     |   1  |   0   |
| Subrata Pal                    | GK        | East Bengal                  | 6'0"    | 27      | £18K    |   9  |   0   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Nirmal Chetri                  | D RC      | Vasco                        | 5'7"    | 23      | £7K     |   2  |   0   |
| Azadur Barman                  | D L       | Air India                    | 5'8"    | 21      | £20K    |   2  |   0   |
| Paramjit Kumar                 | D L       | Mohun Bagan                  | 5'7"    | 20      | £2K     |   3  |   0   |
| Deepak Mondal                  | D C       | Vasco                        | 5'10"   | 34      | -       |  25  |   3   |
| Jose Paul                      | D C       | Mohun Bagan                  | 5'9"    | 22      | £10K    |   3  |   0   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju     | D C       | East Bengal                  | 6'1"    | 27      | £14K    |  10  |   1   |
| Rikki Bains                    | D C       | Havant & Waterlooville (ENG) | 6'1"    | 26      | £6K     |   4  |   0   |
| Ajay Bailleux                  | D/WB R    | Mohammedan                   | 5'10"   | 30      | £1K     |  13  |   0   |
| Amar Thakur                    | D/WB/AM R | Bengal Mumbai FC             | 5'5"    | 21      | £2K     |   0  |   0   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep | D/AM C    | Mohun Bagan                  | 5'7"    | 31      | £14K    |  24  |  10   |
| Amit Singh                     | DM, M C   | FC Nantes (FRA)              | 5'10"   | 16      | £30K    |   1  |   0   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo              | DM, M C   | Bengal Mumbai FC             | 5'11"   | 30      | £1K     |   6  |   0   |
| Kuldip Kumar                   | M C       | Mahindra Utd                 | 5'8"    | 21      | £14K    |   0  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hassan                | M C       | United SC                    | 5'8"    | 21      | £3K     |   0  |   0   |
| Yadwinder Khan                 | M C       | Bengal Mumbai FC             | 5'8"    | 22      | £2K     |   3  |   0   |
| Raheem Alibhaï                 | AM R      | Olympic Charleroi (BEL)      | 5'7"    | 29      | £12K    |   1  |   0   |
| Joseph Pereira                 | AM L      | Pune FC                      | 5'6"    | 31      | £1K     |   1  |   0   |
| Naresh Reja                    | AM L      | SC Goa                       | 5'9"    | 18      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Sabri Gharbi                   | AM C      | Mohammedan                   | 5'7"    | 26      | £5K     |   7  |   1   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Edu                            | ST        | Mohun Bagan                  | 6'1"    | 31      | £12K    |   2  |   0   |
| Sandip Kumar                   | ST        | East Bengal                  | 6'0"    | 22      | £35K    |   1  |   0   |
| Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury       | ST        | A.S. Saint-Etienne (FRA)     | 6'4"    | 20      | £60K    |   1  |   0   |
| Sunil Chetri                   | ST        | AS Rodos (GRE)               | 5'5"    | 29      | £20K    |  23  |  15   |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's the third time I have named a Senior squad for India, and for the first time there are some signs of real consistency. Any players who have previously been selected but this time left out, are almost entirely due either to being injured, or going through a spell of poor form, with seven changes overall from the squad of 26 named for the win against Myanmar back in October of last year. There are only four potential new caps this time around, where the last two squads have seen ten and nine potential debutants respectively. The squad is starting to feel a little more like my squad now.

Goalkeepers
So lets get into it and see what we have. Starting with the keepers, as once more the same trio remain in the squad for the third successive squad. They have the positions locked out at the moment, but with none of them able to cement the number one jersey as their own. Subrata Pal has just had his best ever season at domestic level with the Champions of East Bengal, playing at an average of over 7.00 and keeping nine clean sheets in nineteen starts. Despite playing well when he was given a chance at Mohun Bagan, 21 year old Mohammed Hossain has taken the chance to move in an attempt to get regular First Team football, moving to JCT on a Free Transfer. The third keeper is Scottish based Jasbir Singh. With Scotland still on League football lockdown and playing only Cup matches, Singh is playing little football, and with his contract at Airdrie United about to run down at the end of the month, a move would be best for him in my opinion. Morecambe of Coca-Cola League Two were interested, but that appears to have cooled.

I wouldn't want to leave you with the impression that we only have these three options though. There are young keepers who could challenge them, starting with the one I would love to see involved with an India Senior Squad. Now 17 years old, Belgium based keeper Ganesh Aerts is still not willing to consider joining up with the squad. The AA Gent youngster has had a superb season with their Under-19 side, and continues to improve well. Had he agreed to join up with the squad, he would have taken Jasbir Singh's place and been capped. It's not just abroad that we have young goalkeeping talent though. 19 year old Seby Kumar has established himself as the first choice at Dempo SC, having his best season to date. Mohun Bagan have two good young keepers too, Mohammed Babu is 17, already capped at Under-21 level and started over half of their League matches. Behind him, 16 year old Asif Thapa is one of the most highly rated young players in the nation. I just wish he was a little taller than 5'7, which would always be a concern under crosses and set pieces.

Defenders
We move onto the defence, and start with the right back spot. Since I arrived, that place has been the property of Ajay Bailleux, who has just changed clubs for the third successive season, moving from Pune FC where he has just completed a superb season, and joining Mohammedan SC for £1,000.....and another pay rise. He now has over 100 Senior games under his belt, and at the age of 30, should still have several years of football ahead of him. An understudy for him may be a little more tricky. For depth, this would certainly be classed as one of our problem positions. 25 year old Naoba Singh of Vasco SC was selected as his understudy last time out, winning his first cap. But after his £12,000 transfer from Mumbai FC, he had a very average domestic campaign, playing at an average of less than 6.00 over 21 games in all competitions. I can't select a player of that age who is playing that poorly, and he is dropped from the squad, replaced by the first of four potential debutants. Amar Thakur has spent his entire career with Bengal Mumbai FC, and has just played a superb season with the non-League club. Now 21, and capped once by the Under-21 side, he has catapulted himself to the top of the queue, and on the very day he completes an £18,000 move to National Football League mid-table side Air India, he also earns his first Senior International call up.

The other full back spot across the park on the left is a bit better in terms of depth, and also in terms of stability. 20 year old Paramjit Kumar has made the position his own at Mohun Bagan, and with them being one of the best sides in the land, he has also made himself a primary candidate for the position in the National Team. Last time around he was joined in the squad by his rival from their domestic nemesis at East Bengal, but Dulal Bhattacharya is ruled out this time due to injury. That means a recall for another player who has joined Air India today, as they continue with their spending ways to sign Azadur Barman. The twice capped 21 year old has cost his new side £20,000, after Vasco SC paid less than half that a year ago, and probably didn't get the best out of him. Waiting in the wings for a chance, the young talent coming through is currently led by Dempo SC's once capped Under-21 International, 18 year old Mohan Kumar. He didn't have a brilliant season domestically, but he does already have nearly 40 Senior games under his belt, and is interesting as he can play on either side of the back four. Keep an eye on his slightly older team mate Abdul Mascarenhas as well, who's very good start to the season was halted by a broken leg.

Onto the centre of the back four, where we have our second injury issue. 30 year old James Dissiramah of East Bengal is ruled out of this squad with a sprained ankle. Had he been available, there would have been no changes at all to the four selected centre backs from the squad that faced Myanmar. But as a change was required, it became a bit of struggle to separate the candidates to come into the squad. The winner would have been 18 year old Francisco Reja, but for a second time we're rejected by a player from our Pool who is playing in Belguim, in this case with Germinal Beerschot, in the hope that he will force his way into the Belgium squad. In the end, the place would be given to 22 year old Mohun Bagan player, Jose Paul. First capped against China in 2011, this is his first call up to one of my squads, reward for another solid season with the club he joined two years ago from Churchill Bros for £7,000 and has made over thirty League appearances for them. He was part of the Under-19's successful Qualifying campaign in Iran for the Asian Under-19 Championships later this year. However, I decided that it would be wrong to leave out 23 year old Nirmal Chetri as well. The twice capped centre back who can also cover at right back had a good season with United SC, good enough to see Vasco SC shell out £7,000 for a player who is prone to changing clubs often. He has never stayed with any club for more than two seasons at a time. As a result of me adding an extra defender to the squad, I will now select only four strikers instead of five.

Midfielders/Wingers
On the right side of the park, the match against Myanmar showed that Raheem Alibhaï is not just our first choice winger on that side, but one of the best players we have at our disposal. He has remained with the club he has now spent nine seasons with, Olympic Charleroi breaking the 200 League appearance mark need the end of the campaign. It wasn't his best season for production, but it will surely be just a matter of time before he gets his first International goal. Last time I named a squad, he was the only out and out right winger included, as William Jidayi was able to cover his position if needed. But the Italy based midfielder is left out of this squad, which is disappointing for the eleven times capped 29 year old. His move back to hometown club Ravenna has been for him personally, an unmitigated disaster, as he has constantly been left on the bench and started only three matches in all competitions this season. His match fitness has suffered terribly, and he will be pleased to get out of the club as he looks forward to a summer move down one tier into Serie C2/C, where he will join Gela. A look at their squad reveals his main competition for a place will be 18 year old talent Marco Breschi, who could well be on his way to relegated Serie B side, Cavese. So who takes his place? There were a couple of candidates, not least Steven Dias of Mohun Bagan, who did not have a bad season at all. But he is now 30, and with Alibhaï aged 29, I wanted to bring in a younger player. That rational also ruled out 28 year old East Bengal forward Syed Rahim Nabi, who had also been very useful this season at domestic level. In the end, I decided not to make a selection as an understudy. Amar Thakur is comfortable playing in the role if needed. I could have gone with 21 year old once capped Joseph Lal of East Bengal, or Subhash Rao of Viva Kerala, who assisted twelve goals in 33 games in all competitions.

The left side of the park was a fairly similar story. After making a debut against Myanmar, just like Alibhaï on the right, 31 year old Joseph Pereira is going to take some shifting from the left wing spot in the near future. An outstanding season for FC Kochin which earned him a call up, has also now earned him a transfer, back to the Pune FC club he left on a Free Transfer a year ago. His backup for that squad was also a debutant, the 20 year old Australian/Indian speedy winger, Alan Cervinski. He also made his debut against Myanmar, but after an initial good start on his move to Australia with Toowoomba Raiders, both production and form tailed off, and he has been left out this time. Instead, I call up another graduate of the Under-19 side that did so well in Iran, with Naresh Reja of SC Goa called up into the National Team. His first season with his new club was a roaring success as he provided eight assists in 23 games overall, also adding a pair of goals as well. He is one to keep an eye on, and we really need him to pick up the mantle for us, as this is looking like a problem position in the years to come. If I hadn't selected Reja, I would have had to pick either Reisangmi Vasum, who debuted and scored in my early games in charge but had a very average season with United SC, or Clifford Miranda, who had a good season with Salgaocar, good enough to earn a £1,000 move to East Bengal, but is now 31 years old as well.

Into centre midfield, where there are a couple of changes, and a pair of potential debutants for us this International Window. You already know that William Jidayi has been dropped from the squad for a lack of form and fitness. The other player dropped from this section of the squad is the player who caused such a stir last time around for all the wrong reasons, and then nearly changed all the opinions with a late shot that almost found the top corner, 16 year old French based holding midfielder Karan Mollah. Still with AS Poissy, he has made some steps forward over the season, but his club have been relegated from the fourth tier of French football, and into non-League oblivion. I stuck my neck out for the teenager last year, and he hasn't yet done anything to make me think I was wrong. I will stick my neck out for him again when we finish this International Window.

So that leaves two spots to be filled in centre midfield to join the five retained from the last squad. Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep will be hoping to earn his 25th International cap after another good season in the midfield of Mohun Bagan who were below par themselves as a club this season. Mehrajuddin Wadoo might have made a clever move, as he has just been transferred from Viva Kerala to the Bengal Mumbai FC side that has lost much of it's talent, which obviously leaves Wadoo fancying his chances of a regular game there. He had an outstanding season with his old club too, the best of his career in terms of goals, assists and average rating. That might be £1,000 very well spent by his new employers. There is also a change of club for the man who often pulls the strings in the India midfield, 26 year old Sabri Gharbi. The player who had spells in both Belgium and Holland as a youngster has finished this season with a National Football League Champions medal, and promptly left East Bengal to join Mohammedan SC on a Free Transfer. 21 year old Kuldip Kumar is still uncapped, frankly a travesty of justice, and I will ensure the Mahindra United playmaker gets a long overdue International Debut against the Philippines next weekend. It's a third season in a row where he has been superb for United. Finally, also included once again is the young man who many football fans in the nation are pinning their hopes on becoming the heir apparent as the 'Prince of Indian Football'. Now 16 years old, Amit Singh has yet to force his way near the First Team at FC Nantes, but he is doing some good work with their Under-18 side, and what I like most about him is that he counts two of their coaching staff amongst his favourite personnel. It's been a good first year in football for him, and will likely continue with a second International cap to finish it off.

So who will join that lineup in this squad for the two remaining spots? Well I'm happy to report that along with the strikers, this is one of our most healthy positions, and is likely to get stronger over the coming years too. My first choice was Sheikh Thakur, the 16 year old who plays his football in Denmark with his hometown club FK Viborg of the top tier Danish Premier Division. Once more, the £650,000 rated young midfielder resists our attempts to call him up for India. He is still harboring dreams of playing for Denmark, the nation of his birth one day. I won't be giving up. But it looks like I may have to admit defeat when it comes to 17 year old Sachin Ali. Born in New Dehli, and playing his football in Australia with New South Wales Premier League side Macarthur Rams, he has had a superb first season in football, which is good. But he is also qualified to play for New Zealand, which is bad, as when I attempt to call him up, I'm told that he has already been selected by New Zealand Under-21's for their match in Namangan against Uzbekistan. That's a disappointment. Next! Another chance maybe for France based Vannes Olympique attacking midfielder, Gautam Roy. No go there either, he is injured, a broken toe. Philip Paite captained the Under-19 side in Iran, and he deserved a go, but he hadn't had a very good domestic season with Air India, and a move to Dempo SC may do him good. So instead he has to watch one of his International colleagues get the call up. Yadwinder Khan has already been capped three times, but hasn't had a look in since I arrived. Now he has his foot back in the door after an excellent season as Captain with Bengal Mumbai FC that saw him hit the half dozen mark in both goals and assists in the League, and achieve an average rating over the 7.00 mark. He will be joined by the final potential new cap in this squad, 21 year old Mohammed Hassan, who has received his first call up to the Senior Squad on the day he completes his Free Transfer from Salgaocar back to the club he first joined as a schoolboy, United SC.

Strikers
Finally we get to another area where we have plenty of talent available to us, the strikers. With the number selected being reduced from five down to four, changes were guaranteed. Even so, it may have been a surprise to see both our goalscorers from the victory in Myanmar left out of the squad this time around. Neither is being cast aside of course, but Chidi Edeh managed only three goals in nineteen League matches for Mahindra United, the same number he has from nine International caps, though he did perform much better in the Cup for United. Meanwhile in Lebanon, it has been a very good start to the season for Ranty Martins, who has four goals from eight games so far. I elect to leave him there to continue his domestic form.

That leaves us with the three strikers who were selected last time around all retained in the latest squad. Sandip Kumar has yet to have a crack while I've been in charge, but 14 goals in 22 League matches to help East Bengal to the National Football League Title, his second with the club, and 20 goals for the season overall, speaks for itself He absolutely has earned a chance to add to his one single cap so far, earned against Qatar in 2011. Also included once more is a debutant from last time around, and one of our great young hopes in the squad. Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury is now 20 years old, and the 6'4 striker has spent his entire career so far with AS Saint-Etienne in France. He has yet to make a Senior debut for them, but has just had a very good season for their Reserve side in France's fourth tier, returning ten goals from eighteen starts and twenty four appearances in total. He wants to go out on loan, which would be perfect, but where is an entirely different issue.

Also included is a man with plenty of goals to his name for India, but now in need of a shop window to show off his talents in the hope of attracting a new club. It wasn't so very long ago that football fans in the nation were convinced that Sunil Chetri would be the man would snatch the all time goalscoring record away from Baichung Bhutia, who recorded 43 goals from 79 caps. His own record of 15 goals from 23 caps is of course very respectable, but his ambitions have been hurt by India's lack of matches over recent years. His club ambitions are in a little disarray as well right now. His big chance to play in Europe went very well personally, as he found the net a dozen times in 30 games in all competitions for AS Rodos in Greece's second tier. But they suffered relegation, and with his contract about to expire at the end of the month, he is going to be looking for a new employer, with two Greek teams keen on his services to keep him in the country. Bringing him to Maidstone United wouldn't be an option, as he wouldn't qualify for a work permit to play in the UK due to our lowly FIFA World Ranking. Just one spot remaining, and it would be a recall for another striker who had enjoyed a very good domestic season. Brazilian born 31 year old Edu had spent his entire Indian career, spanning 132 games and 68 goals, with JCT. That era comes to an end for the player I first capped in my opening game as India manager, and he has now moved on to Mohun Bagan in a deal worth £12,000. He will be hoping that his second club in the sub-continent can help him win a first honour of his career.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Friday 6th June 2014
It has been a fairly quiet build up to the match tomorrow with The Philippines, mostly down to the acceptance by most, if not all, that this is a good opportunity for us to shuffle the deck and take a look at some different players once more. That said, the chance to earn some more Ranking points and bump ourselves up a few more positions with a win is just as important, as we need to overtake as many Asian nations as we can.

As is now customary, a player joins me in the press conference the day before an International match, and this time it is the recalled to the squad Air India left back, Azadur Barman. The 21 year old twice capped speedster tells the media that while they wouldn't want anyone to think they are suffering from over confidence, there is certainly a feeling amongst the group of players that they are now capable of winning games like this one, and they hoped they could come away from the match with a good start to the small calendar year fixture list.

Saturday 7th June

International Friendly
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India
India (164th) v The Philippines (176th)
Attendance :-
71,998. Weather :- Breezy, 38c.

It's the day of the first Senior International of 2014 for India, and our first game for eight months. With that last match clearly now unable to provide any kind of form guide, there were a few changes made for this match. Those changes start in goal, with Subrata Pal selected in place of Jasbir Singh to win his tenth International cap. The back four is more settled, with both full backs retaining their place, as does the skipper in the middle, Deepak Mondal, a 26th cap for the Air India 34 year old. He is joined today in the heart of the back four by Manju Nanjangud Shivananju. Into the centre of midfield, where we show one further change. William Jidayi's omission from the squad means there is finally a first cap for Kuldip Kumar, the Mahindra United man picked alongside Sabri Gharbi. There are no changes on the wings, Raheem Alibhaï and Joseph Pereira were both debutants last time out, and each wins their second cap today. Up front is a brand new partnership of Edu and Sandip Kumar, the latter winning his second cap almost three years after his debut. On the bench, right sided Amar Thakur, left sided Naresh Reja and centre midfielder Mohammed Hassan are all hoping for Senior International debuts today.

I doubt very much if it would be a surprise to anyone to see us settle into the match quickly, though it was our visitors from The Philippines who had the first shot, Edyy Huynh's 30 yard effort was well wide of the target though. We had the ball in the net at the other end in the 4th minute, Jospeh Pereira cutting across the park from the left, before sliding a pass into the feet of Raheem Alibhaï. The right winger put the ball into the bottom corner of the net, but what would have been his maiden International goal was wiped out for an offside. Notice had been served though, and the chances soon started to mount up. Pereira had a shot blocked after Kuldip Kumar picked him out with a superb cross field pass, before Sandip Kumar was crowded out after a cross from Pereira, from the following corner, Alibhaï almost catching out UK based keeper Neil Etheridge on his near post. The one way traffic continued, Edu trying a curler that he didn't manage to get any curl on, while Alibhaï sent a shot over the top from his weaker left foot. As the large home crowd started to get a little restless, and Simone Rota fired a shot inches wide of the far post on a rare foray up park, we finally made the break through before half time. Sandip Kumar collected the ball near the penalty spot with his back to goal, and fed it to Pereira. His low shot was pushed away by Etheridge, but only as far as Edu, who tapped home the loose ball to notch his first International goal, and open the scoring in first half injury time.

I made a pair of changes at the break, with debutant Kuldip Kumar and goalscorer Edu both brought off, Amit Singh and Sunil Chetri coming on in their places. Just over ten minutes after the restart however, I would need to make another switch, Ajay Baileux forced off with a knock, Nirmal Chetri his replacement at right back. None of the changes would halt our constant attacks though, Sandip Kumar holding up the ball, and then playing Sunil Chetri in between the centre backs, Etheridge having to make a fingertip save to keep that one out of the net. Almost midway through the half, centre back Manju Nanjangud Shivananju also went down injured, Rikki Bains summoned to replace him. I made my two remaining changes at the same time, Sabri Gharbi and Pereira replaced by a pair of debutants, Mohammed Hassan and Naresh Reja. These changes were not impacting our ability to attack, Paramjit Kumar's cut back from the left found Mohammed Hassan, and Etheridge was again forced into a stop to keep the newly capped midfielder off the scoresheet. Finally the second goal came with a little under quarter of an hour to play, and it was worth the wait. The finish was good, but the assist was even better, Paramjit Kumar stepping forward from left back, and from inside his own half, and with expert precision, he curled the ball over and around the Philippines back four, and sent Sunil Chetri in on goal. The striker is no slouch when it comes to finishing, and he drew Etheridge, before rounding him and slotting home his 16th International goal of his career. That goal would be enough to earn us the win today, our visitors providing the briefest of threats with a long range free kick effort from Ramang Syarifudin that only just missed the target.

India (1) 2 - Edu (45+1), Sunil Chetri (76)
The Philippines (0) 0
Subrata Pal; Ajay Baileux (inj - Nirmal Chetri 56), Deepak Mondal ©, Manju Nanjangud Shivananju (inj - Rikki Bains 66), Paramjit Kumar; Sabri Gharbi (Mohammed Hassan 66), Kuldip Kumar (Amit Singh 45); Raheem Alibhaï, Joseph Pereira (Naresh Reja 66); Edu (Sunil Chetri 45), Sandip Kumar.
Unused Substitutes :- Mohammed Hossain (GK), Azadur Barman, Amar Thakur.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 54% - 46%. Man of the Match :- Paramjit Kumar (India).

Nearly 72,000 were in the stadium in Kolkata to watch a pretty one sided showing, only our lack of creativity and squandering of chances preventing the scoreboard showing a more accurate reflection of how the game really went. When we did create some good chances, Macclesfield Town keeper Neil Etheridge kept us out with a couple of fine saves. We are told we should expect a tougher match here in October when rivals The Maldives come to play us. Then in November, we go on our travels, with the team playing in Andorra to complete our fixtures for this calendar year.

That is all for another day though, and for now all we have to think about is what kind of difference the in will make to both our points, and our FIFA World Ranking, as we continue our mission to improve both and put us in a standing and foothold to work towards becoming regulars not only in the Qualifying sections, but also in the Finals of continental tournaments from Senior through the age groups. There is also the small matter of a new intake for the Indian clubs on the horizon as well, giving us hope of unearthing some more young talent from this nations huge population.

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June 2014
Mahindra United midfielder Kuldip Kumar is over the moon to win his first cap, and says he will return to his club with a new enthusiasm, determined to make sure he is included when the next squad is selected for our match in October. Also in a very good mood is 31 year old Brazilian born striker Edu. He notched his first International goal against The Philippines, and has promised the fans that there are plenty more where that came from. It could also be good news for the Mohun Bagan fans, as he will need to keep the goals coming at domestic level to make sure he continues to be included.

July 2015
With European opposition lined up for the coming season, and our last chance to get things in place before the competitive football returns, this next football season is a big one for us. And that has made the collective intake of Indian footballers all the more important.

In all likelihood, the best prospect to emerge is a 16 year old left winger named Palash Noronha, who is going to be part of Dempo's Youth Team. Great pace and some crossing ability is a good starting spot for him, but he is a bit raw outside of those areas. Joining him at his new club is Joseph Morje, who can play anywhere down the left side of the park, and is a far more rounded player, as good at crossing as he is at defending, but without the sheer pace of his new team mate. Mahindra United youngster Dulal Mondal looks a much better bet to make an impact at left back.

Harish Gomes is also left footed, but the new arrival at JCT can play anywhere through the middle or down the left, and brings great versatility. He might struggle to nail down one position and make it his own though. We do have one new player in the Pool who is starting his career overseas. It's another player who is going to be based in France, 15 year old attacking midfielder Avinash Atwal may struggle to make a huge impact in a Poitiers 2006 club that are outside the primary football pyramid in the nation right now. He hasn't ruled out playing for France yet either, but I can't see it myself.

If we move forward by position, there is very little exciting added to the goalkeeper pool, though it is an area that we are okay at for the moment. In defence, there are a few decent youngsters coming through now, Pradeep Meetei of United SC looks like a good bet to represent his nation down the line, and he can play anywhere across the back four. 16 year old David Doyle doesn't sound particularly Indian, and is in fact a Dual National, as he was born in Geelong, Australia. He's at Mohammedan, and is also worth keeping an eye on. Also at right back is dead ball specialist Goutam D'Silva, who has just signed for his home town side, Pune FC. Maybe the best of the right back's added to the Pool is playing in non-League. 16 year old Ravinder Colaco is part of the squad at Cannanore Brothers.

Into the midfield, and it is hard to look past Mohun Bagan's sixteen year old Zahid Islam as a player who will soon be a candidate for selection with the age group sides. Don't shout it too loudly, but I could actually see him even being a Captain at that level. Michael Kumar is another good looking young prospect. He will begin his career at non-League side City Police, but is already showing some great technical ability. Part of another Police side, 16 year old defensive midfielder Gurpreet Singh will turn out for Karnataka State Police this season, and is another who looks capable of making a step up.

When I took the job as manager of India, the wingers were a real issue for us. That has resolved itself recently with the emergence of Raheem Alibhaï and Joseph Pereira, but neither is going to get any better now in the peak of their careers, and we need some new youngsters to start coming through and earning their stripes on the International stage. Mohun Bagan have yet another player who could be in contention to play for us. Right winger Shahidul Islam Rana has some abilities that could flourish if he is developed well at his new club. Rakesh Chakraborty of Vasco isn't far behind him either. On the left side, Francis Bose of Dempo looks like a youngster who could put his hand up over the next few years.

As if they haven't already stockpiled enough good young players, Mohun Bagan also have a striker that looks very promising indeed, Mohammed Islam is blisteringly quick, and a very good finisher as well. He even has ability in the air that is well above average for his height. There is another young Australian born player who could be worth keeping an eye on too, Salgaocar's sixteen year old Mal Karlovic was born on the Gold Coast, and while he doesn't have Islam's eye catching initial abilities, he is more well rounded overall. Pune FC will be delighted that they get to nurture the impressive young talents of Rakesh Joseph.

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Now we're going to look at the players that were already part of the National Pool, and any moves and improvements from over the summer.

Goalkeepers
Mohun Bagan now have four keepers in the National Pool, and 17 year old Asif Thapa is now ranked as one of the best in the country, and has yet to be capped at any level. We'll be keeping an eye on him to see if he can make his way past a few colleagues and into the hunt for a First Team spot at his club. Those team mates include Mohammed Babu, who is the same age and played fourteen times for the club last season, and one year older Mohd Kamal Babu, who played on loan at Churchill Brothers last season, making six appearances, and could be set for another loan spell this season.

UK based Jasbir Singh has moved clubs again this summer. The 24 year old keeper with two caps has left Airdrie United, and Scotland, returning to England where he started his career. He rejected an offer from Kidderminster Harriers of the Blue Square Premier, electing instead to join their Division rivals, Woking, where he will be looking to secure the number one jersey from Northern Irishman and now squad rival, Terry Masterson.

If he can't force his way into the First Team there, he could end up losing his place in the National Team squad to one of the Mohun Bagan young keepers, or even better for us, the one other goalkeeper in the Pool who is earning his living outside of India at the moment. Yes, we are still a long way from giving up hope of persuading Belgian born and based 17 year old Ganesh Aerts, who continues to move through the ranks at AA Gent, though hasn't yet made a First Team debut for the club, to represent us at International level.

Defenders
Ajay Bailleux has been superb for at right back since I arrived as Manager, and looks set to continue to be first choice for the time being at least, the 30 year old moving for the second summer in a row, returning to the National Football League as he signs for Mohammedan for £1,000. If he reproduces the form he showed for Pune last season, it'll be a bargain buy. 17 year old Arman Liton made a pair of appearances for Mohun Bagan last season, and if he can improve on that this season, he could be in contention soon. But for now, the main challengers for Bailleux seem to be Amar Thakur, who is also returning to play in the top tier after a year away, leaving Bengal Mumbai FC for Air India in an £18,000 deal, and Naoba Singh, who will also sign for that club in October from Vasco in a £5,000 transfer.

At left back, I have a pair of great options who are going to be around the India squad for years to come. Azadur Barman is about to begin his first season with the big spending Air India after they spent £20,000 to sign him from Vasco, and look to break the dominance of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The 21 year old has two caps, and is probably a more rounded overall player than his main rival for the place, Mohun Bagan player Paramjit Kumar. The 20 year old with four caps is more capable of influencing the game going forward though, and is a former Air India player himself. He was a regular for Mohun Bagan last season, but struggled to impress, and will be looking to improve on that this coming season. Should either of those pair hit a poor patch of form or injury issues, East Bengal's five times capped 22 year old Dulal Bhattacharya is the next in line right now.

Centre back is where we are most likely to see changes over the coming months in our defence. Deepak Mondal is yet another who has made the move to Air India, this time the fee is £1,000. At that price, the risk is minimal, but while Mondal has been performing well for his country, who he now has 26 caps for, he is coming off the worst domestic season of his career, albeit with a struggling Vasco side. Now 34 years old, is time starting to catch up with our experienced centre back? 27 year old Manju Nanjangud Shivananju is several years behind him at 27 years old, but the East Bengal centre back with 11 caps has been treading water with his club for a while now, and time is starting to run out when it comes to impressing and cementing a starting role. You could apply the same description to English based Rikki Bains, who now has 5 caps, and we'll get a good look at him when my club face his Havant & Waterlooville outfit this season. Jose Paul of Mohun Bagan is the next man in line, and he is said to be a target for Iranian side Paykan Tehran. My stance is well known on Indian players moving abroad, if they get a chance to do so and improve their game, they should absolutely take it. A change of heart from another Belgium based player, Francisco Reja would be most welcome, the 18 year old Germinal Beerschot player would take our defence to the next level. That doesn't look imminent however, and more likely is a call up for Morocco born Zouhair Taouil, who has dropped out of the National Football League after a torrid season with Mahindra United, and will now play for non-League side Mumbai Customs. We'll be keeping a close eye on his form to see if he can rebound this campaign. One last player to mention. Remember Francisco Bhowmick, the Hong Kong based centre back who I capped to lock into India's Pool? You may recall after losing his job with a top tier side, he dropped all the way into non-League football last season. While he didn't perform particularly well with Kowloon City District Recreation and Sports Council, he has earned himself a move back up into the pyramid at least, signing on a Free Transfer for Third Division A club, Fire Services Sports & Welfare Club. I'll be routing for the 18 year old, and I hope he can get through this tough stage of his young career.

Midfielders/Wingers
Our options in this area of the park increased significantly this time last year, and we are now pretty solid. That wouldn't stop me finding a place for FK Viborg's over a £¼ million rated midfielder Sheikh Thakur, though the 17 year old is currently unlikely to consider a call up from us as he dreams of representing Denmark. He has made his First Team debut for his club this season from the bench too. I would love to see that happen for a teenage midfielder that we have already locked into the Indian National Team, as Amit Singh impressed in his two caps, and looks to take the next step forward with FC Nantes. Plying his trade much further down the French football pyramid is Karan Mollah, who's debut raised eyebrows, though nearly ended with him finding the top corner. At least he is playing First Team football for AS Poissy now though, making 26 appearances last season, and continuing to make strides forward. Aman Verma is the second member of our Pool to leave Scotland, and return to England in search of League Football. The midfielder with three caps has moved from Stirling Albion to join Bury of the Blue Square Premier.

The move up a level in Italy for William Jidayi from Saló to Ravenna was pretty much a disaster, and the 29 year old with eleven caps will now be hoping for a major return to form as he returns to the previous level with Gela, who are a feeder club for Serie A side Palermo, and Serie B outfit Reggina. Also in need of a big step up this season is 19 year old French based attacking midfielder Gautam Roy. I capped him early to commit him to us in terms of International football. He's now going into his fifth season with Vannes Olympique Club, and has yet to make his debut. That could change soon though, as he's been called up into the First Team squad for their pre-season fixtures, and he may finally get a chance to show what he can do. It might be that the Indian football fans don't get to see Sachin Ali in our International side. The New Dehli born midfielder is also qualified for New Zealand, and has played twice for their Under-21's, and plays his club football in Australia. Unless we can tempt him with a call up to our Senior squad, we may have missed the boat there.

Next, lets take a look at the domestic based talent in the middle of the park, and again, there is plenty there. Kuldip Kumar has elected to snub the interest elsewhere, and will remain with Mahindra United, the club the 22 year old has spent his entire career with except for a loan spell with SC Goa, and will be looking to add to his cap total after making his debut against the Philippines last time out. At 26 and with 8 caps to his name, Sabri Gharbi is experienced in comparison, and is hitting the peak years of his career. He has played his career in India after failing to make the grade with good level clubs in Belgium and Holland. He has made a move this summer though, leaving East Bengal, where he spent two very good seasons, and has moved on to Mohammedan on a Free Transfer. It's a bit of a strange move for him to be honest. 30 year old defensive midfielder Mehrajuddin Wadoo's days as a regular in the Senior Squad may be over. With six caps so far, he has spent two impressive seasons outside the flagship League in the nation with Viva Kerala, and rejected chances to move back into the top tier, he has instead signed for Bengal Mumbai FC. Also with a question mark over his future involvement is attacking midfielder Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep. The Mohun Bagan player has a superb record of 10 goals in 24 caps, and has been very productive at domestic level with his club too, but we struggle to fit him into our system that has us playing two strikers. 22 year old Yadwinder Khan of Bengal Mumbai FC and 21 year old Mohammed Hassan now of United SC were also included last time out. For Khan it was a return to the squad after his superb season, while Hassan was rewarded for his campaign with Salgoacar with his first cap, and he has now moved on looking to make another step up. As with most positions, Mohun Bagan are well stocked, and they are looking to move some of their younger players out on loan for the season, which will give everyone a chance to see exactly what the likes of Iqbal Tariq, Ripon, Nurul Islam, Arman Alam and Khaled Sarker can do.

He might only be two caps into his International career, but Raheem Alibhaï is going to take some shifting from the right wing spot. He is about to start his tenth season with Olympic Charleroi, and to be honest, he hasn't been nearly as impressive as he has on the International stage, 18 goals and 21 assists 204 appearances is hardly a sparkling return. But it hasn't stopped him attracting interest from across the border in France, second tier side Stade Brest are apparently considering making an offer for him. 21 year old Joseph Lal of East Bengal was capped once by Bobby Houghton back in 2011, but he did have a good season last year, and is challenging 25 year old Naoba Singh to be his main competition. He didn't have a very good season with Vasco, but Air India have agreed to buy him for £5,000. Their spending spree continues at a pace, but these airlines are made of money, so what could possibly go wrong?

Left wing might be our biggest issue right now. There are some very talented youngsters on their way through, but they will be a few seasons away yet, meaning that for now we will have to go with what we have got. And what we have got is similar to the right, in that there is a clear main man in 32 year old Joseph Pereira, first capped against Myanmar and now with two caps in his possession. He has just returned to Pune FC, who he left a year ago, then had a superb season with FC Kochin which propelled him into the International reckoning. His return to Pune coincides with their return to the National Football League, and he will now play in the top tier after two seasons outside the League. It'll be interesting to see how he does. His back up last time out was 19 year old Naresh Reja, who received his first cap from the bench against the Philippines. He had a decent season with SC Goa last year, and will look to improve further this year. Behind those pair, we are struggling for depth, with the best of the rest being a pair who have at least had a taste of football on the International stage. Reisangmi Vasum was named in the first squad I selected over a year ago now, and also scored in the second game of that double header. He was with Viva Kerala at the time, but move on to United SC, where he had a really poor campaign. He will now be team mates with Reja, after joining SC Goa for £1,000 this season, making for a very interesting dynamic in their squad. The wild card is 20 year old Australian based Alan Cervinski. Born in Mumbai, he started his career there too, and last year his family returned to Australia, and he went with them. He signed for Toowoomba Raiders, and made a promising start too, earning his International bow against Myanmar. His form tailed off quickly though, hampered by a succession of small niggling injuries that hindered his progress. His team earned a promotion though, and now we will learn more about the Dual National lad, and if he is serious about his career, I'm a little skeptical myself.

Strikers
Finally, we are at the sharp end of the park. This is a position that has been deep for us over the last year, but that level may have dipped a little over the last year. Once capped Ghanaian born forward Yakubu Yusif is currently without a club, and the 35 year old has announced he will retire at the end of the season. It's a bit of a surprise, as he scored 17 times in just 22 games with Salgaocar last season, and clearly still has something to offer. Only another club coming in for him is likely to cause a change of heart I suspect. Also without a club right now, but very much at the other end of his career is 20 year old Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. The 6'4 striker who made his International debut against Myanmar scored ten goals for St Etienne's second string last campaign, but they decided to cut him loose. He has plenty of clubs interested in signing him, and it may turn out to be a great thing if he gets regular First Team football with a club such as AS Beauvais Oise, Paris FC 2000, FC Rouen, Stade Epinal or AS Cherbourg. Less attractive as an option would be Poitiers, already home of 15 year old midfield National Pool member, Avinash Atwal. 18 year old Belgian born and based forward Tapan Janssens, who was handed his first cap against Sri Lanka in my first match in charge to make sure he remained in our Pool, has been released by La Louvière without making an appearance for them. It might be the end of the line in football for the teenager.

On to those that still have a club, and Sunil Chetri has signed a new deal to remain in Greece. That's the good news, the bad news is that it's with the same club he got relegated with last season! Yep, the active player with the most International goals for India to his name, 16 from 24 caps, will now be playing non-League football in Greece for AS Rodos next season after agreeing to stay for two more seasons with a pay rise. It was not the decision I was hoping the 29 year old would come to. While Chetri was netting his 16th International goal, another player who's chance to go abroad seems to have passed him by now, was notching his first. Brazilian born striker Edu has at least avoided dropping into Indian non-League football with a move to Mohun Bagan. He has a impressive record of better than a goal every other game from his time with JCT, but he couldn't keep them up last season. Rumours that he would move to Portugal to continue his career proved wide of the mark, as he completed a £12,000 move to Mohun Bagan. He notched his first International goal in his third cap last time out against the Philippines.

A pair of 27 year old's who were also not born in the country will remain in the mix to feature for the Senior Squad in the next year as well. Chidi Edeh is not a pure or clinical finisher. He never has been, and never will be. The Nigerian born striker has been a regular player in the National Football League since 2004/05 when he signed for SC Goa. Since then, he has scored 88 times in 188 games, and he gets results by being too powerful and strong for his opponents to handle. He is now the Captain at Mahindra United, but had the worse season of his career, finding the net just three times, the same number of goals he has at International level. An alternative to him could be another Nigerian born player, Ranty Martins. He has four goals in his six caps to date, and started his career with Dempo, where he played 131 times and returned 93 goals. A £130,000 transfer to Al-Nejmeh in Lebanon hasn't really slowed him down too much either, where he is around halfway through the season and on course for his best ever return. Is it as straightforward as the physical game of the African players being an advantage in Asian Leagues, where skill and speed are the norm?

A review of the strikers would not be complete without a mention for Sandip Kumar. The East Bengal hotshot is one of the hottest strikers in the country right now, with 56 goals in just 97 games. Bobby Houghton capped him against Qatar in 2011, and he has been dismayed at the lack of opportunities to play for his country. Last time out, he finally won his second cap, and it would be foolish to believe he won't be part of this squad for many years to come. Surely, it's just a matter of time before he gets amongst the goals on the International stage?

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August 2014
Climax Lawrence hasn't actually retired as a player right now, that is planned for April next year. But the 35 year old centre midfielder who has 18 caps to his name and is actually still regarded as the National Team Captain, has backroom staff skills that cannot be ignored, and he has now started his new job, where he will act as Coach to the Senior National Team

His first game in a backroom role with the National Team will be the home match against The Maldives in October as we continue the countdown to the time that we finally get to play some competitive football. We're currently placed 152nd in the FIFA World Rankings, and our next opponents are one spot ahead of us. I don't think you'll find too many people who would make them favourites to beat us in Kolkata in a few months time. The game is given a bit of added spice, as both nations consider each other to be a fierce rival.

The month ends with us moving up one spot to 151st in the latest edition of the FIFA World Rankings. We are getting very close to cracking the Top 150 now.

September 2014
The month starts with some great news, as one of our National Team centre backs has earned a move to Europe. And Mohun Bagan were happy with their profit as well, as they only paid £7,000 for Jose Paul two summers ago, and now have received £30,000 for him as he moves to Georgia. He is only the second foreign player in the squad of WIT-Georgia Tbilisi, the other being a former Armenia Under-21 International striker. There is a good pay rise in it for the centre back too, who will now earn £700 per week, and made a very impressive debut for the club.

Climax Lawrence has now retired with immediate effect. He has decided that as it now looks unlikely any club is going to employ him play this season, he's going to focus on getting the second phase of his career off to a good start. He finishes his career with 195 domestic appearances and 33 goals. He also earned 18 caps for India at Senior level, though he failed to find the net for his country.

So now a new Captain is required for the Senior National Team. The recommendation of the backroom team was to appoint Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep as the new Captain. However, he isn't guaranteed to be in the team, of course no one is, but he probably isn't even first choice right now. So, I selected the player who is closest I have to first choice, Raheem Alibhaï is the new Captain, with Ajay Bailleux his Vice-Captain. My appointments were considered 'controversial' by the sports press of the nation.

A three place drop in the FIFA World Rankings means that we will go into next months home match with The Maldives sat in 154th place.

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Friday 3rd October 2014
Two days before we name our squad for the home Friendly against our rivals from The Maldives next week, and it looks like we are going to have some injury concerns. Havant & Waterlooville centre back Rikki Bains has had a string of injury issues over the years, mostly small niggly issues, but they have limited his football, particularly at International level. It looks like a sprained wrist may prevent him adding to his five caps next week too. Definitely missing out will be veteran centre back, and 34 year old Air India player, Deepak Mondal, who has a foot injury. Joining him on the missing list is another overseas based player. Hong Kong based centre back Francisco Bhowmick has produced a big upturn in form since moving up to the Third Division A with the Fire Services Sports & Welare Club, but he has broken ribs.

Once capped right back Joseph Lal is also definitely out with a twisted ankle, while Aman Verma's great form since moving South of the Border and to Blue Square Premier side Bury won't get a chance to be translated onto the International stage, as he is ruled out with a strained neck. With our right wing options already pretty limited, we are also going to be without 30 year old Mohun Bagan's five times capped Steven Dias, who had a damaged heel. Finally up front, Chidi Edeh is ruled out as well, a broken foot will keep the Mahindra United captain out until well into the new year.

Young midfielder Amit Singh, who is still primarily in the Youth setup at FC Nantes in France, but has also played for their Reserve side this season as well, is doubtful as he is just returning from a pulled hamstring. 30 year old William Jidayi, rejuvenated this season at Gela in the Italian Serie C2/C, should also be okay after suffering a bruised shin a week or so ago. 22 year old Sandip Kumar is the form striker in Indian domestic football right now, and he is also labelled as doubtful, the East Bengal striker suffered a damaged foot last month.

Sunday 5th October
Rumours are circulating that I could be about to name an India squad for the final time, with suggestions that my name is included on a three man final shortlist for an International job elsewhere. I say nothing in response to the story.

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Senior Squad for Friendly International with The Maldives - (H) 11/10/2014

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

| Jasbir Singh                   | GK         | Woking (ENG)            | 6'0"    | 24      | £6K     |   2  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain               | GK         | JCT                     | 6'1"    | 21      | £2K     |   1  |   0   |
| Subrata Pal                    | GK         | East Bengal             | 6'0"    | 27      | £20K    |  10  |   0   |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Nirmal Chetri                  | D RC       | Vasco                   | 5'7"    | 23      | £1K     |   3  |   0   |
| Azadur Barman                  | D L        | Air India               | 5'8"    | 22      | £20K    |   2  |   0   |

| Paramjit Kumar                 | D L        | Mohun Bagan             | 5'7"    | 20      | £1K     |   4  |   0   |
| Gumpe Singh                    | D C        | East Bengal             | 5'7"    | 22      | £3K     |   0  |   0   |
| James Dissiramah               | D C        | East Bengal             | 5'10"   | 31      | £6K     |   3  |   1   |
| Jose Paul                      | D C        | WIT-Georgia (GEO)       | 5'9"    | 22      | £30K    |   3  |   0   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju     | D C        | Churchill Bros          | 6'1"    | 27      | £9K     |  11  |   1   |
| Ajay Bailleux                  | D/WB R     | Mohammedan              | 5'10"   | 30      |  -      |  14  |   0   |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

| Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep | D/AM C     | Mohun Bagan             | 5'7"    | 31      | £7K     |  24  |  10   |
| William Jidayi                 | DM, M RC   | Gela (ITA)              | 6'2"    | 30      | £5K     |  11  |   1   |
| Amit Singh                     | DM, M C    | FC Nantes (FRA)         | 5'10"   | 16      | £50K    |   2  |   0   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo              | DM, M C    | Bengal Mumbai FC        | 5'11"   | 30      |  -      |   6  |   0   |
| Ryan D'Souza                   | M R        | East Bengal             | 5'9"    | 22      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
| Kuldip Kumar                   | M C        | Mahindra Utd            | 5'8"    | 22      | £9K     |   1  |   0   |
| Yadwinder Khan                 | M C        | Bengal Mumbai FC        | 5'8"    | 22      | £1K     |   3  |   0   |
| Raheem Alibhaï                 | AM R       | Olympic Charleroi (BEL) | 5'7"    | 30      | £5K     |   2  |   0   |
| Joseph Pereira                 | AM L       | Pune FC                 | 5'6"    | 32      | £1K     |   2  |   0   |
| Reisangmi Vasum                | AM LC      | SC Goa                  | 5'8"    | 25      | £1K     |   2  |   1   |
| Sabri Gharbi                   | AM C       | Mohammedan              | 5'7"    | 26      | £5K     |   8  |   1   |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Edu                            | ST         | Mohun Bagan             | 6'1"    | 31      | £1K     |   3  |   1   |
| Ranty Martins                  | ST         | Nejmeh (LIB)            | 6'1"    | 28      | £12K    |   6  |   4   |
| Sandip Kumar                   | ST         | East Bengal             | 6'0"    | 22      | £24K    |   2  |   0   |
| Sunil Chetri                   | ST         | AS Rodos (GRE)          | 5'5"    | 30      | £60K    |  24  |  16   |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is my fourth India Senior Squad Announcement, and it's a pretty inexperienced squad, with some experimenting likely as we face our rivals from The Maldives on Saturday in Kolkata. Two potential new caps are included in the squad, and seventeen of the twenty six players in the squad have less than five caps to their name. Only seven of the squad play their football outside of India, with East Bengal the club side providing the most players to this Senior Squad, with five selected from the current Indian National Football League Champions, and early season leaders.

There hasn't been a huge amount of consistency in my squad selections, as with the football being purely Friendly matches since my arrival, there has been plenty of opportunities to experiment with the Squad. That logic does not apply to the goalkeepers however, as for the fourth time in a row, I select the same three goalkeepers. That said, Jasbir Singh isn't having the easiest of times at Woking, and if there had been a legitimate alternative, I think I would have left him out this time. Sadly, no one was able, or willing, to take the spot. Belgium based AA Gent Youth goalkeeper is still saying no to us right now, the 17 year old still holding out hope that he will get a shot with the nation he was born in. A pair of domestic teenagers were also ruled out, one through a lack of football, the other through injury.

There is no change to the pair of right backs I selected either, with new Vice-Captain for the Senior side Ajay Bailleux retained despite a pretty poor opening pair of games for Mohammedan, while things have been much more solid for Nirmal Chetri, who is also at a new club, Vasco in his case. There are players coming through behind them, but none currently doing enough to unseat either from the bus to the match, Amar Thakur was included last time, but didn't get a debut and is left out of this squad after a less than impressive start to the season with Air India. There is less competition on the left side of the back four, with both Paramjit Kumar and Azadur Barman fairly comfortable in their spots for the moment. They do have a credible rival though in the form of East Bengal's twenty two year old five times capped Dulal Bhattacharya, who has started the season in very impressive form.

There is more of a change around in the centre back ranks, but that's okay, as there is plenty more competition in that position too. Rikki Bains is frustrated that injury has once more cost him a spot. Time is at least on his side at the age of 26, which is the number of caps Deepak Mondal currently has. But at 34, with a poor start to the season, and now six weeks on the sideline, it should be considered that Mondal may have had his last stand on the International stage. Jose Paul has made a great start to his career in Europe with WIT-Georgia, and he is an easy pick for us now. I'm delighted his move is going so well for him. Manju Nanjangud Shivananju has been included in every squad I've named, but only played two halves of football. His decision to leave East Bengal for relegated Churchill Brothers has been seen by many as a poor move, but even with so many good centre backs around, he still keeps his place in the squad time after time. So two places are up for grabs. Another Belgian based teenager has again knocked us back, 18 year old Germinal Beerschot Under-21 player Francisco Reja isn't prepared to turn out for us right now. With Hong Kong based centre back Francisco Bhowmick out injured, I elect to go back to domestic players, and recall 31 year old East Bengal man, James Dissiramah. He is automatically one of the elder players in our squad, but the Ghana born player is turning out regularly for the best side in the country, and has been consistent since I first capped him. He is joined by a team mate, and potentially our first debutant, as 22 year old Gumpe Singh is included in a promotion from the Under-21 squad where he won ten caps. Close to inclusion were twice capped Mohun Bagan star Adil Kundu, and another experienced Under-21 International player, Freddy Basheer, who recently made the move from Air India to Viva Kerala.

On to the wings, where we have some fairly major depth issues. On the right, Raheem Alibhaï is our new Captain, and by quite some way our best option. But the Belgian based 30 year old is out of form with second tier side Olympic Charleroi, where he is spending his tenth season. With no goals or assists in seven League games so far, I think everyone concerned is hoping that this International Window brings about a rediscovering of his form. With five cap Steven Dias of Mohun Bagan out with an injury along with Jospeh Lal of East Bengal, we had to look for a new alternative. Step forward the second and final potential debutant of this squad selection, Ryan D'Souza. The 22 year old has two Under-21 caps and has just rejoined East Bengal for his second spell with the club. A pair of assists on his debut for them should ensure he gets more game time than his first spell with the Champions, where he only played three times.

Things are not much better on the left. Once more there is a player in control, 32 year old Pune FC new signing, and also back for a second spell with the club, Joseph Pereira. Unlike Alibhaï, he is in good form, with two assists in his opening two League matches. His understudy last time around was 19 year old Naresh Reja, but he has left SC Goa for East Bengal, and has yet to play this season. That leads to the once capped winger being left out this time, and in a twist of fate, his replacement is the man who has taken his place at SC Goa, as there is a recall for 25 year old Reisangmi Vasum, who has just re-signed for them after a below average season with United SC, he previously played for SC Goa in 2012/13.

There is a much better wealth of depth in the centre of the park, even with another snub from 17 year old Denmark based Sheikh Thakur, who has this season made some great progress, appearing twice for Viborg in the Premier Division from the substitutes bench. So despite all that depth, there is actually only one change made to the midfield options from last time out. Mohammed Hassan of United SC made his debut last time out against The Philippines in his home city of Kolkata. I can't even say that his form has tailed off particularly either, but a change in club in Italy has seen a return to form for William Jidayi, and he earns a recall.

Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep is still the best defensive midfielder we have at our disposal, and the Mohun Bagan 31 year old retains his place in the squad. Mehrajuddin Wadoo is his natural understudy, and his move to Bengal Mumbai from Viva Kerala has had no impact on his usual excellent form. That form is actually being matched, and bettered, by one of his new team mates, three times capped 22 year old Yadwinder Khan, who's impressive form of last season has continued in the early stages of this campaign. French based 16 year old Amit Singh continues to make good strides at a very high level with FC Nantes, playing for their Reserve side already this season. Kuldip Kumar has seen a great upturn in his production with Mahindra United over the last year or so, and he will hope to add his single cap to date next weekend. Finally, Sabri Gharbi's move from Champions of last season East Bengal to newly promoted Mohammedan has worked out much better than many predicted.

In probably the deepest position for us in terms of talent, there is still plenty more behind those selected. Aman Verma is back South of the Border in the UK after switching from Stirling Albion to Bury, and he is playing regularly and well for the Blue Square Premier side, injury ruling him out of contention this time around. French born and raised defensive midfielder Karan Mollah was told he wasn't good enough to be part of the squad when he was first selected. AS Poissy were relegated last season, but the new level has seen an upturn in his form and production. The media were really down on the 16 year old, but I like the lad. Also based in France, but at a higher level, and further up the park, Gautam Roy has made a First Team debut this season from the bench for Vannes Olympique. You can add Under-21 International from Mohun Bagan, nineteen year old Nurul Islam into the mix as well.

The strikers were a little more easier to select this time, with the job pretty much doing itself. We have six strikers who are firmly in the picture to be in our squad, but one is injured, and another is without a club. It will be well into the New Year before Chidi Edeh of Mahindra United is back fit and playing again, after he broke his foot early in the season. Despite still having plenty of clubs interested in his signature, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury still hasn't signed anywhere since being released in the summer by AS Saint-Etienne.

So by default, that leaves us with our four. I can't say I was delighted that Sunil Chetri decided to remain with AS Rodos in Greece after they got relegated into non-League, but his season has started well with two goals and three assists in the opening seven matches. 22 year old Sandip Kumar is the form striker in India right now, firing six goals and adding an assist in just five Cup games to start the season with East Bengal. In Lebanon, the form of Ranty Martins has never really dropped, and he has thirteen goals in 23 matches in the League this season for Al-Nejmeh. The final striker included is the Brazilian born Mohun Bagan striker Edu, who's consistency is a great asset to us, and doesn't appear to be changing as he enters the 'veteran stage' of his career.

Monday 6th October
I knew going into the weekend that my name had been brought up several times as a front runner for the job with Guatemala. That came to a head today, with the Central American nation making a decision on where they were going to go with their next manager. And it wouldn't be me, as they appointed 32 year old native of the nation Leonel Estrada into the role, his first job in football. I have to be honest, if the job had been offered to me, I may well have made the jump. Their National Pool is much, much smaller, but has a lot more quality to it. Plus they play a lot more competitive football than we get the chance to participate in.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Friday 10th October 2014
The squad safely have arrived and assembled in Kolkata on Wednesday, and with no fresh injuries to report, we are all set for tomorrow's match against The Maldives. The visitors go into the match two spots ahead of us in the latest FIFA World Rankings, sat in 152nd with us in 154th. I'm of the firm belief that them being ahead of us is an absolute injustice, and we will prove it tomorrow in the Salt Lake Stadium, in front of a crowd of around 70,000.

All the questions at the press conference focus on the damage it could do to the squad should they lose at home to a nation considered as bitter a rival as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The assembled media are told that I have every faith in the squad selected, and that I don't forsee any other result than an India win.

Saturday 11th October

International Friendly
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India
India (154th) v The Maldives (152nd)
Attendance :-
72,038. Weather :- Breezy, 31c.

Mohammed Hossain gets a start in goal for us today, the 21 year old JCT keeper earning just his second cap. New Vice-Captain of the side Ajay Bailleux wins his 15th cap today from right back, while there is an International debut for Gumpe Singh, as the East Bengal centre back partners Georgia based Jose Paul in the middle of the back four. Another of our European based players is wearing the Captain's armband in just his third cap, Olympic Charleroi right winger Raheem Alibhaï starting today, with talented 16 year old Amit Singh also winning a third cap as he partners Italy based and recalled William Jidayi in the middle of the park, Joseph Pereira completing the midfield of our 4-2-2-2 wide formation. Up front, the two in form strikers are selected, Lebanon based Ranty Martins partnered by East Bengal's hotshot, Sandip Kumar. On the nine man strong bench, Subrata Pal is the sub keeper, with Nirmal Chetri, James Dissiramah and Azadur Barman the defensive reinforcements. Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Sabri Gharbi as available as midfield replacements, with the winger options the potential debutant Ryan D'Souza, and the recalled Reisangmi Vasum. Up front, Edu is the replacement striker selected.

I told the players that I'd be disappointed if we were anything other than convincing winners here, and they set out to get me that result. From the halfway line, Paramjit Kumar swung the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box, where Sandip Kumar brought it down, and got in an early shot that only just cleared the bar. It was a different story in the 17th minute though, when Joseph Pereira sent over a corner, and Jose Paul met it with a powerful downward header that found the back of the net, to give us the lead. We were asserting our superiority, with Amit Singh heavily involved in the midfield. He picked out Raheem Alibhaï just inside the box with a slide rule pass, the skipper just missing the top corner with a curling effort. Our visitors made a rare excursion up the park, Joseph Shameem getting himself past Pereira, and unable to resist the chance to let a shot go from range, but he missed the target. We were having none of that, and put the island nation right back in their place, Amit Singh and Sandip Kumar combining to put Ajay Bailleux into space on the right, and he angled his run towards the byline, before standing up a cross towards the far post that took the keeper out of the game, leaving centre backs Anthony and Pradeep Saeed to try and deal with Ranty Martins, which they failed to do, the ball hitting Pradeep and nestling into the bottom corner. 2-0 at the break, all was well in Kolkata.

The first half had gone well, and I was expecting more of the same in the second half. One change was made at the break, William Jidayi was returning from injury, and I decided 45 minutes was plenty for him in a game with little meaning, so replaced him with Sabri Gharbi at half time. The Maldives hadn't read the script though, Santosh Hassan receiving the ball in the box, and firing in a first time shot that Mohammed Hossain was at full stretch to turn away. Hassan had another go moments later, a shot from much further out that didn't threaten the target. Encouraged, our visitors continued to push and prod to try and find a way through, with most of their good work coming through forward Donald Shibau, who seemed to be everywhere for them in the minutes after the restart, Paramjit Kumar having to head one of his crosses over his own bar from pretty much right underneath it, as Hassan prepared to apply the finish. Keen to get us back on top, I made a trio of changes, Amit Singh, Alibhaï and Sandip Kumar all replaced, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, debutant winger Ryan D'Souza and Edu all coming on. But it didn't quite work out that way, as three subs combined for the Maldives, Mohamed Ibrahim finding Hassan, and he backheeled the ball to Laxman Ibrahim, who slid his shot under Hossain's dive to halve their deficit. It was gut check time for us, D'Souza picking out Edu, but he couldn't pick out the top corner, his shot a little too high. But five minutes later the Brazilian born striker found Martins in the box, and he picked out the bottom corner from ten yards out, much to my relief. It was the Nigeria born forwards fifth International goal, and was the catalyst for me to make some more changes, Bailleux and Gumpe Singh coming off, Nirmal Chetri and James Dissiramah replacing them in the back four. A Mohamed Ibrahim shot wide from distance was all the Maldives could muster by way of a response, and while it wasn't as convincing as we would have liked, we had one over our rivals.

India (2) 3 - Jose Paul (17), Pradeep Saeed (42 og), Ranty Martins (75)
The Maldives (0) 1 - Laxman Ibrahim (68)
Mohammed Hossain; Ajay Bailleux (Nermal Chetri 75), Gumpe Singh (James Dissiramah 75), Jose Paul, Paramjit Kumar; Amit Singh (Mehrajuddin Wadoo 61), William Jidayi (Sabri Gharbi 45); Raheem Alibhaï (Ryan D'Souza 61), Joseph Pereira; Ranty Martins, Sandip Kumar (Edu 61).
Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Azadur Barman, Reisangmi Vasum.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Jose Paul (India).

That win should be enough to see us past The Maldives, and a few others hopefully, when the next FIFA World Rankings are released. We should be a Top 150 nation now, and we can have another look at how we are faring against the other Asian nations, as we look to move past as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

Sunday 12th October
22 year old man of the match, Jose Paul, spoke to the press after netting his first International goal in his fourth cap for his country. Things are going really well for the Maragao born centre back, who earned a move to Europe after good spells with Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan. He has made a bright start in Georgia with WIT-Georgia, and now says he can't wait to pull on an India shirt once more. That next opportunity will be next month, when we break down a barrier with a game in Europe against Andorra.

He isn't the only one who has the bug for International Football once again, and I have a decision to make.....

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Sunday 12th October 2014
I hated myself a little for making the decision. It was selfish, and Ganesh Sharma didn't deserve to be let go, but I didn't like the Dempo managers selection for the Under-20 squad during the Qualifiers, and I would rather pick the squad and lead the team myself, knowing I can then take players who are already involved in the Seniors, or are on the fringe of being involved with them.

It would be a lie to suggest I hadn't considered how the exposure and any potential success in the upcoming 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals may impact my club prospects as well, and could be a platform to a better job going forward. The tournament takes place in Japan, with the games starting in a fortnight. India are in Group B, and as well as the host nation, we will also face Qatar and Indonesia. The top two from each of the four Groups will advance through to the Quarter-Finals. The current holders are China,

Wednesday 15th October
It's a huge day for us as a football nation, as we move up into the Top 150 in the new version of the FIFA World Rankings issued today. The win over the Maldives has given us a ten place push from 154th, up to 144th. We have 75 points right now, and there are still multiple nations within striking distance that we hope to pass in the near future. In the near eighteen months since I took the job, we have moved up 58 places in the Rankings, a great achievement. Now we just need some competitive football to build up more points, and to test ourselves. Last time I compared our Ranking against the other Asian nations, we were 36th out of the 46 nations ranked in the Continent, which was almost exactly a year ago now. It makes for much better reading now............

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |
 
| 21st               | South Korea                      | -                  | 1144               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 26th               | Saudi Arabia                     | +3                 | 1060               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 36th               | Japan                            | +4                 | 837                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 45th               | China PR                         | -2                 | 719                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 48th               | Oman                             | +3                 | 709                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 54th               | United Arab Emirates             | +2                 | 633                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 58th               | Uzbekistan                       | +2                 | 581                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 60th               | Indonesia                        | +11                | 570                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 62nd               | Australia                        | -4                 | 563                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 63rd               | Syria                            | +1                 | 560                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 66th               | Iraq                             | +3                 | 522                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 72nd               | Lebanon                          | +11                | 449                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 73rd               | Qatar                            | +8                 | 440                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 80th               | Singapore                        | +7                 | 375                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 82nd               | Iran                             | -19                | 369                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 83rd               | Kuwait                           | +9                 | 351                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 86th               | Bahrain                          | -1                 | 332                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 91st               | Jordan                           | +9                 | 308                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 110th              | Vietnam                          | +1                 | 203                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 128th              | Yemen                            | +4                 | 123                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 129th              | Tajikistan                       | +1                 | 115                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 132nd              | Thailand                         | +1                 | 107                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 144th              | India                            | +10                | 75                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 147th              | Turkmenistan                     | -4                 | 72                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 150th              | Bangladesh                       | -3                 | 69                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 151st              | Hong Kong (China PR)             | -10                | 69                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 152nd              | Kyrgyzstan                       | +5                 | 69                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 153rd              | North Korea                      | -14                | 66                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 158th              | Brunei Darussalam                | +1                 | 54                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 160th              | Malaysia                         | -10                | 53                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 161st              | Guam                             | -1                 | 48                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 162nd              | Maldives                         | -10                | 48                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 165th              | Chinese Taipei (China PR)        | -10                | 45                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 171st              | Mongolia                         | -4                 | 31                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 175th              | Palestine                        | -4                 | 26                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 176th              | Laos                             | +3                 | 25                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 179th              | The Philippines                  | -3                 | 20                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 180th              | Sri Lanka                        | -7                 | 20                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 189th              | Nepal                            | -6                 | 15                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 190th              | Bhutan                           | +3                 | 14                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 197th              | Myanmar                          | -3                 | 9                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 199th              | East Timor                       | +1                 | 8                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 202nd              | Pakistan                         | -                  | 6                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 203rd              | Afghanistan                      | -                  | 5                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 204th              | Cambodia                         | -                  | 2                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 206th              | Macau (China PR)                 | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

That's 23rd out of the 46 nations this time, which is great progress over the year, and sneaks us into the top half of Asian nations in the Rankings. We have overtaken European nations Liechtenstein and the Faroe Islands, we're just one spot behind Kazakhstan, and now within striking distance of Iceland, Armenia, and this months highest climbing nation, Luxembourg.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 20th October 2014
A week from today, India Under-20's will play their opening Group B match in the 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals. No, I don't quite understand that either, but there we go. We'll play our opening match against Qatar in Tokyo, where the venue is the Ajinomoto Stadium, a near 50,000 capacity ground in the Chðfu district of the city. From there, we will move on to Osaka for our next two matches in the Nagai Athletic Stadium, a 47,000 seater building. There, we will face host nation Japan next Wednesday, followed by our final Group B match on Friday evening against Indonesia.

As far as the squad goes, I have gone on form, and also for players that I believe will have the opportunity to either play for the Senior National side in the coming months and years, or are already doing just that, and will benefit from the experience of International Tournament football. With a squad of just twenty to be selected, there were some very tough decisions to be made, and players who can cover multiple positions became very valuable. You'll notice some familiar names if you have been following along, and you'll also notice some new names who I hope you will soon hear a lot more about.

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT
India Under-20 Squad for the AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals

| Name                   | Position | Club                  | Height  | Age     | Value   | International Status |

| Mohammed Babu          | GK       | Mohun Bagan           | 5'9"    | 17      | £12K    |    1 Under-21 Cap    |
| Seby Kumar             | GK       | Dempo                 | 5'8"    | 19      | £2K     |    4 Under-21 Caps   |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Freddy Basheer         | D RC     | Viva Kerala           | 5'10"   | 20      | £5K     |   11 Under-21 Caps   |
| Sheikh Coelho          | D L      | Bengal Mumbai FC      | 5'7"    | 18      | £4K     |      Uncapped        |
| Paramjit Kumar         | D L      | Mohun Bagan           | 5'7"    | 20      | £2K     |     5 Senior Caps    |
| Steven Colaco          | D C      | Churchill Bros        | 5'7"    | 20      | £1K     |3 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
| Satish Das             | D C      | FC Kochin             | 5'7"    | 19      | -       |  Capped at Under-19  |
| Pradeep Fernandes      | D/WB R   | Bengal Mumbai FC      | 5'9"    | 20      | -       |  Capped at Under-19  |
| Anwar                  | D/M C    | East Bengal           | 5'9"    | 17      | £6K     |    1 Under-21 Cap    |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Manjit Singh           | WB/M R   | Hindustan Aeronautics | 5'8"    | 20      | -       |    4 Under-21 Caps   |
| Amit Singh             | DM, M C  | FC Nantes (FRA)       | 5'10"   | 16      | £50K    |     3 Senior Caps    |
| Karan Mollah           | DM, M C  | AS Poissy (FRA)       | 5'7"    | 16      | £3K     |      1 Senior Cap    |
| Bharat Noronha         | DM, M C  | Churchill Bros        | 5'9"    | 19      | -       |2 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
| Mohammed Nayan         | M C      | JCT                   | 5'9"    | 18      | £1K     |3 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
| Shahidul Islam Rana    | AM R     | Pune FC               | 5'7"    | 17      | £1K     |       Uncapped       |
| Alan Cervinski         | AM L     |Toowoomba Raiders (AUS)| 5'8"    | 20      | -       |      1 Senior Cap    |
| Santosh Hakkim         | AM LC    | East Bengal           | 5'8"    | 18      | £1K     |5 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Gautam Roy             | AM/F C   | Vannes Olympique (FRA)| 6'1"    | 20      | £4K     |      1 Senior Cap    |
| Felix Basheer          | ST       | Mohun Bagan           | 5'8"    | 19      | £2K     |2 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
|Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury| ST       | Unattached            | 6'4"    | 20      | -       |      1 Senior Cap    |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Goalkeepers
Ganesh Aerts of leading Belgian side AA Gent has once again refused to represent India, and so the two selected keepers are Dempo's current number one, 19 year old Seby Kumar, who despite still being a teenager has played almost fifty times at First Team level in the National Football League. Competing with him for the starting role will be Mohun Bagan's very talented 17 year old Mohammed Babu, who played 14 times for his club last season, and has been in favour this campaign as well.

Defenders
Our right back options are good, as we select two players at the top end of the age limit, both playing regular football. Freddy Basheer is one of the form players in the whole of India right now, the Viva Kerala 20 year old has eleven caps at the Under-21 level. He has played six League matches this season, and has an average of almost 8.00. He is outstripping the form that persuaded his new club to pay Air India a transfer fee of £5,000 for him in the summer. At the time of the squad selection, he has already played sixty First Team matches. Joining him in the squad is a more attacking option in Bengal Mumbai right back Pradeep Fernandes. He is a new arrival at the club from Dempo, and has made an excellent start, adding a point and a half onto his average rating, and doubling his career attacking production, with a goal and two assists in half a dozen outings for his new employers.

On the opposite side of the back four, there was a standout player available to us, Senior National Team regular, five times capped Paramjit Kumar. Our only concern over Kumar is that he hasn't played any domestic football yet this season, falling out of favour with Mohun Bagan, with rumours rife that he is about to make a move to Vasco. His backup is a capable, yet Internationally uncapped teenager, and another example of the strides Bengal Mumbai are making, as 18 year old Sheikh Coelho makes the squad. He made 27 League appearances for the club he joined as a boy last season, and has played nine times in all competition this season, finding the net twice and adding an assist.

With limited squad places, only three centre backs are selected for the Finals, though I did at least know that Freddy Basheer can cover the position if absolutely necessary. Satish Das is the first of the trio selected, and his lack of height is typical for our selections, but is made up for with good positioning and speed. He has just made a big move from Assam Dynamo to FC Kochin, and is taking the move in his stride, putting in good numbers. Matching, and then bettering his numbers, and also at a higher level, is Churchill Brothers 20 year old centre back Steven Colaco. Despite his young age, he has played just one game short of fifty for the First Team, and all of them apart from this seasons seven games were at the top level National Football League, while also appearing for the Under-21's three times. Also called in is East Bengal's exciting young prospect Anwar, who is primarily a centre back, but also capable of providing some extra cover in midfield as well.

Midfielders/Wingers
In midfield, I'm delighted to be able to select my two young French midfielders, one who has become a firm fixture in the Senior National Team, and another who's selection was described as a move capable of turning Indian football into a laughing stock, but has since taken strides in his own young career. Amit Singh plays his football at one of France's biggest clubs, FC Nantes. They also happen to have one of European football's most prolific Youth Development programmes. Until such time as we are able to convince the likes of Aerts or Thakur to play of us, this young lad is probably our shining light. Karan Mollah is more defensive, but made a breakthrough last season when he played 26 times for AS Poissy, though they were relegated last season. It may not be such a bad thing for him personally, as he has increased his playing level in the new lower Division, and earned himself the chance to play in this important tournament for us, and increase his reputation, which has yet to recover from that ridicule.

The duo have another French based player for company too, an older player who has started to make some strides of his own. Gautam Roy was another player who I quickly capped, an Indian born attacking midfielder who has spent his entire career in France with Vannes Olympique Club, and has seen them yo-yo between the second and third tiers. This season they are back in the third tier National League, and he has made his Senior debut from the bench. Some more regular football with them would only speed up his progress I feel, and his ability to cover as a striker, where he is more likely to play in this Tournament, makes his inclusion more logical.

I mentioned earlier that full back Freddy Basheer is one of the form players in India right now, and here is one of the others. JCT's 18 year old midfielder Mohammed Nayan has had an outstanding start to the season, making six appearances in the Cup, and then a Senior League Debut for his club, where he played at almost an average rating of 8, and over 7 for the season in all competitions. Joining him is a slightly older player, who produces more at the sharp end of the park. Bharat Noronha is only a game away from 50 in the League for Churchill Brothers, and his on course for the best season of his career to date, already surpassing last seasons output in 19 League matches, albeit at a lower level after their relegation.

The situation on the wings was, frankly, nowhere near as prosperous as it was in the middle of the park. On the right, I have to go quite a long way down the depth chart to find someone who looked like they could be useful to us in this Tournament. The lucky winner is 17 year old Shahidul Islam Rana, a flair player with a decent cross on him and good acceleration, if not blistering top end pace. He was brought through Mohun Bagan's system for a year, and has now signed for Pune FC, making a Senior and National Football League debut for them. His alternative is older, and frankly better, but he is more of a wing back than a winger. He also is the player at the lowest level of domestic football in this squad. 20 year old Manjit Singh came through the ranks at Mahindra United, eventually making 28 National Football League appearances for them, and also having a hugely successful loan spell with the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. This season he has signed to play for Bangalore Super League side Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club. He has played four times for the Under-21's, and could prove useful to have around.

Still, it could be worse. It certainly is on the left. Nurul Islam and Joseph Morje are out of form, Naresh Reja and Stanley Alemao are not playing at all. So our best option is 18 year old East Bengal winger Santosh Hakkim, who is at least playing, though isn't in sparkling form himself either. But the teenager who has just made the step up from the Madras Engineering Group Centre club does have good experience at Under-21 level International Football, where he has been capped five times. His understudy is potentially one of our wildcards for the Tournament, as we see the return to the International stage of 20 year old Australian based winger, Alan Cervinski. Capped quickly to tie him to us, the Mumbai born and raised left footer had a great start with Toowoomba Raiders, which quickly tailed off. However, he has moved up a level this season with his club, and has started to show signs that he may yet have something to offer for us.

Strikers
With Gautam Roy already selected to cover both attacking midfield and as a striker option, there are just two spaces left in the squad. The first is a very easy decision to make, 19 year old Felix Basheer scored nine goals 28 top tier appearances with United SC and Mahindra United over two seasons. Mohun Bagan snapped him up at the end of his contract, and in three League games with them, he has netted four goals, and there are already rumours about what could happen when his contract finishes in May. And his potential strike partner? Well, bring on our second wildcard, and I couldn't resist the chance to give unattached 6'4 striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury the stage he so desperately needs to try and impress one of his suitors and finally get the lad signed somewhere. Players with his height are hard to come by for Asian nations, and he is a weapon we don't want to lose from our National Pool.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Thursday 23rd October 2014
Today is the day that the players have their squad numbers registered, which apparently, is quite a big deal. It offers an insight into possible selections, and who may or may not be in favour right now. I'm not sure anyone will learn too much from our squad numbers, as I pressed the 'auto numbers' button.

Sunday 26th October
The AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championships has kicked off today here in Japan, with the first four matches played today in Hiroshima, Tokyo, Sendai and Osaka. There were wins for all the favourites, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in Group A against Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, while in Group C, we saw wins for Australia and China, against Malaysia and Syria.

Our Group B campaign begins tomorrow evening in Tokyo, at the Ajinomoto Stadium, where we'll face Qatar. The predictions are that we are the two nations who will be eliminated from the Group, and as such, this is likely to be our best chance of a victory during this Tournament. Not in the eyes of the bookies though, who have made Qatar 1/6 favourites, with ourselves priced at 10/1.

Qatar are ranked 73rd in the latest version of the FIFA World Rankings, but that list is not necessarily relevant to age group International Football. The Middle East nation have been Runner's-Up in this competition once, though it's not exactly a form guide, as that was in 1980, so just the 34 years ago. That was very much a golden period for them, as the following year the same group of youngsters were Runner's-Up in the Under-20 World Cup, losing in the Final to West Germany in the Tournament played in Australia.

Their current squad however, doesn't look particularly strong. Several of their players don't currently have clubs. Of those that do, 18 year old forward Hussain Majed plays for one of the better clubs, Al-Gharrafa Sports Club. They have been newly promoted into the Q-League this season, and he has played 26 times for them this season. They have one of their players who is earning a living overseas, dual national of both Qatar and Portugal, 17 year old striker Abdulaziz Aman is now living and playing in the European nation, though he has yet to make his debut for top tier Liga Sagres side, Leixðes Sport Clube, now established in the competitive Division, though they are prone to letting themselves get dragged into a relegation scrap.

Monday 27th October

AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
Qatar Under-20's v India Under-20's
Attendance :-
313. Weather :- Strong Winds, 22c.

If this is going to be our best opportunity to get a result from this Tournament, then we should give ourselves a chance and go for it. So I use the same modified and attacking 4-4-2 that the Senior National Team have played with recently. Seby Kumar gets the nod in goal, while the full backs picked themselves to be honest, Freddy Basheer and Paramjit Kumar both selected. Satish Das and Steven Colaco will partner up at centre back, with the latter also handed the Captains armband. Amit Singh starts in the midfield with Mohammed Nayan, while Shahidul Islam Rana and Santosh Hakkim will play on the wings. Up front, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury gets an early chance to impress, as he is selected to play alongside in form Felix Basheer.

It was a tentative start to the match, particularly from Qatar, which was unexpected, and gave us some confidence. We were forced into an early change though, as left winger Santosh Hakkim was forced off with an injury less than twenty minutes in, Australian based winger Alan Cervinski replacing him. Within a minute of making that change, Mohammed Nayan clipped forward a free kick from the halfway line, and and centre back Khalid Al-Bloushi's attempted header back to keeper Abdulaziz Saeed lacked two things. Power, and awareness. The first one wouldn't have been an issue, if he had been aware that Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury was between him and his keeper, our 6'4 striker heading the ball on further, and it was set to drop under the cross bar, but Saeed back pedalled towards his own goal and got a fingertip on the ball, touching it over the bar and onto the roof of the net. Not everything our striker did went well, when the ball came out towards him after we defended a free kick, instead of holding it up, or playing it out into the channels, he tried it pass it back to centre back Steven Colaco, who was beaten to the ball by Salah Abbas, his curling shot pushed away by Seby Kumar. Before the break, Qatar created the best chance of the match so far, Abdulaziz Aman twisted and turned to find some room in the left corner of our box, and sent a diagonal pass to Hussain Majed, who's shot was superbly stopped by Kumar, though he was offside anyway.

Half time, still goalless, and we had done a fairly decent job of smothering Qatar as well, and we were starting to make a mockery of the odds that were given before the match. Clearly they were feeling the pressure, as they made a pair of half time changes, Majed and Abbas both replaced. They tried to get their restart off to a superb start, but skipper Hamad Ballan's free kick beat the wall and Kumar's dive, but was just an inch over the cross bar. Moments later, we gave them cause to think again, Amit Singh and Islam Chowdhury involved in the build up, and right winger Shahidul Islam Rana got into the box, and cut the ball back to our midfielder Singh, but he went for power and sent his shot over the cross bar. By the time we reached the hour mark, Qatar were noticeably more edgy about their failure to break the deadlock, and that was giving us more opportunities to counter attack, in an almost identical incident, Singh once again missed the target when Islam Rana cut the ball back to him. With twenty five minutes to play, Felix Basheer got the ball from an Islam Chowdhury knock down, and played a through ball into the left channel of the box, where Cervinski beat his marker to the ball, and clipped a shot past Saeed, but just brushing the top coat of paint off the cross bar. Moments later, in a reversal of the last chance, Cervinski picked out Felix Basheer in the box, his shot on the turn missing the top corner by inches. Inside the final twenty minutes, and with legs starting to tire, Islam Rana and Islam Chowdhury were both replaced, Manjit Singh and Gautam Roy coming on in their place, the latter asked to play a little deeper than Islam Chowdhury had done. Moments later and Qatar created their best chance, Aman turning away from Satish Das, and then using Colaco as a screen, before letting go of a shot that beat Kumar, but crashed back off the cross bar. At the other end, Manjit Singh sent a long ball down the right, and Saeed had to be off his line quickly to get out of his box and beat Felix Basheer to the ball, and knock it to safety. Into the final ten minutes, and crosses were being fired into our box from all angles as Qatar desperately tried to force their way through, and it almost backfired when Gautam Roy sent in a 30 yard shot when Saeed was off his line, the shot just missing the target and hitting the stanchion behind the goal. With ninety minutes on the clock, Felix Basheer sliced through the Qatar defence, and then placed a through ball into the box and into the path of Manjit Singh. The subs low shot was under the dive of Saeed, but came back off the near post, right to Cervinski, who's effort at the open goal was blocked by Al-Bloushi with a last ditch lunge! We had so nearly provided a huge upset to open the Tournament, but we had provided a minor one at the very least.

Qatar Under-20's (0) 0
India Under-20's (0) 0

Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco ©, Paramjit Kumar; Mohammed Nayan, Amit Singh; Shahidul Islam Rana (Manjit Singh 72), Santosh Hakkim (inj - Alan Cervinski 18); Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury (Gautam Roy 72), Felix Basheer.
Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Sheikh Coelho, Anwar, Karan Mollah, Bharat Noronha.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Seby Kumar (India Under-20's).

The bookmakers have a bit of egg on their faces after that performance, as we open our Tournament earning a point that no one thought we would get from any of our three matches. The youngsters did a superb job this evening, defending well, counter attacking when they got the chance, and almost stealing all three points right at the end.

Japan beat Indonesia quite easily in the other Group B game of the day, a 3-0 win for the hosts puts them in pole position after the first round of games. In Group D, everything went entirely to form, Iran thrashing Tajikstan 4-0, while South Korea beat Palestine 2-0 in Sendai.

Tomorrow is our day off, but we will also spend it travelling across the country, as we relocate from Tokyo in the east of the country, across to Osaka where we will play our final two Group B matches. It's a six hour journey on the road, which isn't ideal preparation to face the hosts on Wednesday, who are conveniently already in Japan's third largest city.

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Tuesday 28th October 2014
Our day off becomes a travel day as we move from our base on the outskirts of Tokyo across to Osaka, where we will play twice more this week, starting with a match against the hosts tomorrow night in the Nagai Athletic Stadium. Whatever happens now for us in this Tournament, we have already achieved more than anyone expected by earning a draw. At moments when things went quiet, I wondered if I might have made a decision that could give my club career a much needed kick up the backside as well. Clearly the bookies didn't think our result against Qatar was anything other than a fluke, as we are priced at 12/1 tomorrow, with Japan a frankly ridiculously unbackable 1/20.

Japan have brought a very strong squad to this home Tournament. £1 million rated midfielder Takashi Yoshida is very experienced at the Under-21 age group level, and is currently playing his football in Brazil's third tier, where he has made five League appearances this season. Even more experienced are the Urawa Reds double act of left winger Masaya Murakami and striker Ryo Usami. The former has been a regular in the J-League for several seasons now, while the latter is just about to make his breakthrough it would appear. The squad also includes another left winger playing in Portugal with second tier Penafiel, while at the back, another also plays in Brazil, while 15 year old Masaaki Suzuki is playing in Mexico with Jaguaré.

Groups A & C resume today with their second round of matches. Group A see's a meeting of its minnow nations, with Hong Kong taking the narrow win over Singapore, before the clash of its heavyweights, where Saudi Arabia defeat the UAE by a goal to nil. It's more straightforward in Group C, where Australia and China win again, beating Syria and Malaysia respectively, confirming their places in the Quarter-Finals, with their match on Thursday now set to decide the Group Winners.

Wednesday 29th October

AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B
Nagai Athletic Stadium, Osaka, Japan
India Under-20's v Japan Under-20's
Attendance :-
342. Weather :- Dry, 21c.

Clearly this Tournament isn't going to be particularly well attended, as even with the hosts playing in a nation where football is becoming more and more popular, less than 1% of the seats in this stadium are occupied tonight. Those that have come along to the match are expecting a routine Japanese victory, but they'll have to break us down, as we are going into a very defensive formation, with a little flexibility in the tactic to allow us a chance to counter attack, if and when the opportunity presents itself. Alan Cervinski starts on the left wing in place of Santosh Hakkim, who hasn't suffered any lasting effect from his knock on Monday, and is available from the bench if needed. The other change sees Karan Mollah start, joining Amit Singh sitting in front of the back four, with Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury dropped to the bench.

It was immediately clear that the Japanese youngsters fancied their chances of putting a few goals on the scoreboard in this one, as they confidently passed the ball around to try and probe for a gap early on, Kunio Suzuki getting into the box, but failing to get the curl that he wanted onto his shot. For our part, we looked quite comfortable sitting back, and carefully assessing where the threat was coming from. Ten minutes later, and striker Ryo Usami moved out to the corner of the box and and a few Japanese players tried to overload the box and provide him with a target, a last ditch header from Amit Singh kept the ball out of their clutches. Save for the odd dangerous ball into the box, we were doing alright though, and when Suzuki had his second crack at goal midway through the half, it was from range, not getting the dip he wanted on the ball this time, and his effort cleared the bar. Full back Takaaki Nakamura achieved the same result, collecting the ball on the run and shooting from 25 yards out, but also missing the target. I'd like to tell you that it wasn't all Japan, but it was. Until the 36th minute at least. We won a corner from a counter attack, and Manjit Singh's inswinging delivery found the head of Satish Das as he jumped between skipper Keisuke Hirai and keeper Shoji Tanabe, glancing home a header from close range to give us a shock lead! Now we had the hosts rattled, and a header over the top of our defence put Usami in on goal. But Steven Colaco did a great job of getting back and pressuring the striker, who buckled and sent his shot high and wide. We had reached half time with the lead, and a huge shock was still a possibility.

We had the cream of the young crop from one of Asia's best footballing nations rattled, and it was drummed into the players at the break that they need to be even more sturdy in defence during the second half, but that chances would come our way as the pressure mounted on the Japanese. It was probably a shock in itself when the first chance of the half fell our way, we won a free kick just outside the box, and Manjit Singh's curling effort just caught a deflection off the outside of the defensive wall, spinning just wide of the target with Tanabe stranded. His corner wasn't quite so good this time, though neither was Usami's attempted cut back moments later, or Alan Cervinski's cross after our left winger produced a great run down the wing as we raided on another counter attack. We had successfully reached the hour mark with our slender advantage still in place, and Japan were showing signs of panic, making all three changes in one go in the 62nd minute. It didn't improve their fortunes though, as they appeared to be running out of ideas to break us down, Hirai's long range effort the latest in a number of poor shots from well outside the box. In contrast, I was going to use my subs to run down the clock, the first coming just after the mid point of the half, the tireless running of Felix Basheer replaced by the more powerful hold up skills of Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. Just under ten minutes later the big striker got goalside of the Japanese defence when Freddy Basheer curled the ball over their back four. Chowdhury was able to easily hold off the backtracking defenders, but couldn't pick a finish, his shot high over the bar. With ten minutes to go, I made my second change, Amit Singh had run his socks off, and was replaced by Bharat Noronha. Then with six minutes to go, Das' long clearance up the park bounced all the way through to Tanabe. The keeper tried to organise his outfield players into position before sending it back upfield, failing to notice he was being closed down by Chowdhury. He rushed his kick, striking it against the frame of the 6'4 French based striker, and watching in horror as the ball hit his chest and bounced right back past him, rolling slowly into the net to double our lead! The celebrations from the players would make you think that we had won the Tournament, but for us, this was our Final! Sheikh Coelho got a taste of the action late on as a replacement for Paramjit Kumar, as we secured an enormous victory for the nation.

India Under-20's (1) 2 - Satish Das (36), Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury (84)
Japan Under-20's (0) 0
Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco ©. Parmjit Kumar (Sheikh Coelho 90); Amit Singh (Bharat Noronha 80), Karan Mollah; Manjit Singh, Mohammed Nayan, Alan Cervinski; Felix Basheer (Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury 69).
Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Anwar, Shahidul Islam Rana, Santosh Hakkim, Gautam Roy.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Satish Das (India Under-20's).

At half time, our possession was barely over the 30% mark, and by the end of the game, we had just edged the majority. A sign of how Japan fell to bits after the break, constantly giving the ball away, and failing to cause Seby Kumar any real problems, with just two shots on target throughout the entire match.

I won't make excuses for them though, all credit to us, we were absolutely superb! In a year when France and Italy were knocked out of the World Cup in the Group Stage, and Sweden reached the World Cup Final, while Holland finally won their first World Title, and there would be a debut Premier League season for Plymouth Argyle, this might be the shock football result of 2014! No one had given us even a prayer of getting anything from this game, but we had just turned over an Asian heavyweight in a major Continental age group Tournament! It will be a day I'll never forget, no matter what happens in my career going forward.

And going forward is now an interesting prospect. We face Indonesia here in two days time, and almost as unbelievably as that result today, we head into that match top of Group B, as our next opponents soundly beat Qatar 3-0 earlier today in Tokyo. That means that a draw in the final match will guarantee us a Quarter-Final spot, and depending on the result elsewhere, could also knock the hosts out at the same time. It will be interesting to see the odds for the next game. It will also be interesting to see if our success today has any impact on my reputation.

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Thursday 30th October 2014
Yesterdays other action was provided by Group D, where heavyweight nations South Korea and Iran played out a 1-1 draw in Hiroshima. Later in the evening, Tajikstan beat Palestine by the only goal of the match, leaving them in with a small chance of progressing to the last eight. I say a small chance, because they'll have to beat South Korea on Friday to accomplish that.

Indonesia Under-20's are not an attack minded team, but they will have to change that to a certain degree tomorrow evening in Osaka, as while a draw would be a superb result for us, and guarantee us a passage into the last eight, it's a result that could see the South East Asian nation pack their bags for home. That would be quite the shock for the second seeds in Group B, who are currently ranked 60th in the World.

A thriving League structure with an emphasis on home grown players gives the nation of over 250 million people a football team and age group sides that continue to improve and make strides on the Continental stage. Of their twenty player squad, only two play their football overseas. Talented 20 year old defender Tri Yulianto actually plays in Qatar, who they soundly beat yesterday, turning out for Al-Sadd Sports Club. The other plays at a higher level still, and is widely regarded as one of the Continents finest young players. 19 year old defensive midfielder Ivan Suganda plays in South Korea with Suwon Samsung Blue Wings in the K-League. He already has seven Senior International caps, scoring two goals, and in club football this season, he provided 17 assists in 37 matches in all competitions as he side reached the Playoffs. Of the home based players, the best is probably PSM Makassar striker Melky Nasution, a 19 year old who has scored seven goals in just nine competitive games for his club this season. So do the bookies give us any chance? Absolutely not. We are 10/1 rank outsiders in this two team race, versus 1/14. Our win over Japan clearly didn't impress them!

The first two Groups were completed this evening. The matches are not scheduled to run concurrently in this Tournament as they are at the World Cup, or European Championships, which means that there are advantages to be gained. In Group A's early match, Saudi Arabia moved serenely into the Quarter-Finals with a 100% record, as they beat Hong Kong 3-0 to claim top spot. In the later match, there was a bit of a shock, with the UAE held to a 1-1 draw by Singapore in Sendai, despite being down to ten men for the last hour of the match. It wouldn't be a difference maker, the point was enough to send the Gulf State nation through in second, while Singapore were still firmly rooted to the bottom of the Group.

Tokyo would host the Group C clash between two unbeaten nations who were battling to top the section. It would be China who would take that particular honour, beating Australia 2-0, thanks to a quickfire first half brace from wonderkid Shanghai Shenhua striker Zhao Bin, the 19 year old who has thirty two goals in twenty eight caps for the Under-21 side, and 36 goals in 54 games for his club since they paid just £75,000 for him, and who he already Captains. In the late game, which was very much a consolation match between two eliminated nations, Malaysia were clinical against Syria in Osaka, or at least, Mohd Khairul Hamzah was, the Kuala Lumpur Plus striker notching a hatrick to earn his nation third in the Group.

Friday 31st October
One early games were key today, the final day of the Group Stages in this Tournament. In our section, Group B, the hosts redeemed themselves after their shock defeat last time out to us, as they thrashed Qatar 4-0 in Tokyo, a brace apiece from Shiro Fujita and Ryo Usami, with three of the goals coming in an eight minute first half spell. And there was finally an upturn in attendance numbers too, with just over 600 turning out to see that one. The result means that only one of Indonesia or us can progress, and Indonesia now go into the match knowing what they have to do, win.

In Group D, the early match was a bit of a dead rubber, as Palestine were out, and could only serve to make things more complicated for their Iranian opponents. They did manage that, equalising midway through the first half after falling behind. But they couldn't keep their more illustrious opponents out, and a goal less than ten minutes into the second half confirmed their passage into the last eight, with either South Korea or Tajikstan preparing to do battle in a bid to join them later on.

AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B
Nagai Athletic Stadium, Osaka, Japan
Indonesia Under-20's v India Under-20's
Attendance :-
315. Weather :- Dry, 20c.

A draw will be enough tonight, in the scene of our famous victory just forty eight hours ago. But Indonesia need a win, and our defence will surely be tested more thoroughly than the Japanese managed to pressure us. But the hectic schedule is catching up on us, and I have to make changes today to freshen up the team a little. Unfortunately, it's two of our best players who are just too tired to start, Paramjit Kumar is replaced by Sheikh Coelho at left back, while Amit Singh is replaced by Bharat Noronha as one of the pair sitting in front of the back four, as we continue with the defensive formation that served us so well against Japan.

We faced more pressure here in the opening spell than we did in the entire first half against Japan. And it was costly. In the 13th minute, a corner was cleared by our defence, but Muhammad Irianto controlled the ball, and as our defenders and the Indonesian attackers moved out, he weighted a through ball towards the right corner of the box as Joko Sopandi moved in, busting the offside trap wide open, and sending a shot across goal, past Seby Kumar's dive, and inside the far post to put Indonesia in pole position early on. That was a bad start, but it was too early to change our whole gameplan in my opinion, despite Ivan Suganda getting into our box and only being denied by a last ditch tackle, and Sopandi curling in a free kick that hit the top of our cross bar. But by the 33rd minute, I would have to make personnel changes at least, as Sheikh Coelho had suffered a knock, and Felix Basheer couldn't continue after getting injured. Both came off, Paramjit Kumar and Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury replacing them, leaving me with just one substitution left to try and change things up if needed later in the game. It felt like we were playing uphill, but at least it didn't get any worse before the break, though Melky Nasution did fire a shot into the side netting when he probably should have scored.

The players were told that they needed to lift their heads, we may be a goal down, but a draw was enough for us this evening, and we were still in this game. But it was clear that Indonesia were still in control of the game, Sopandi cutting in from the right, and cutting the ball back from the right corner of the box to skipper and left back Kadri Cahyono, but his shot was wild, and well over the bar. Moments later, winger Johni Aditya spun away from not one, but two defenders, and then sent in a shot that only just cleared the bar. Cahyono missed the target again, and we were starting to get overwhelmed when Andi Tambunan won another corner twenty minutes after the restart, and Suganda's deep delivery was kept in by Aditya, and sent back into the danger area, where it was side footed home by Sigit Sunarya. Now we were up to our necks in it, and had to make changes. We switched to the 4-2-2-2 wide that we used in the opener against Qatar, with Karan Mollah replaced by Gautam Roy, who joined Islam Chowdhury up front. But I'm afraid the damage had been done. Indonesia picked us off at will on the counter attack, Tambunan's inswinging corner glanced home with a header by Nasution in the 74th minute, and in the 80th minute he produced a much more powerful header from close range when Sopandi sent in a cross from the right to put the final nail in our coffin for this Tournament. It could have been worse, but sub Ronny Iskandar curled his free kick a whisker wide of goal in the 87th minute.

Indonesia Under-20's (1) 4 - Joko Sopandi (13), Sigit Sunarya (66), Melky Nasution (74,80)
India Under-20's (0) 0
Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco, Sheikh Coelho (inj - Paramjit Kumar 33); Bharat Noronha ©, Karan Mollah (Gautam Roy 68); Manjit Singh, Mohammed Nayan, Alan Cervinski; Felix Basheer (inj - Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury 33).
Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Anwar, Amit Singh, Shahidul Islam Rana, Santosh Hakkim.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Melky Nasution (Indonesia Under-20's).

That was such a disappointing way to end the Tournament, but we should be patting ourselves on the back. No one gave us a chance of being in with a shot of the Quarter-Finals when we got to the last day of Group B. We had finished third in our section, ahead of Qatar. A very successful Tournament, and the blue print for us going forward. I hope this is just the start of many more successful Tournaments for India, and the more that happens, the more we will expect and demand from the players. This particular Tournament is biannual, and we need to make sure we are in it again in two years time, as it's a great platform for our young players.

The debrief from our trip to Japan will have to wait for another day, as I now have to get on a flight, and head right back to the UK, as Maidstone United have an away League fixture with AFC Wimbledon tomorrow afternoon, and if I leave right away, I can get back in time to be there. It won't be long before I'm back on duty with India though, as the Senior National Team play again in less than three weeks, with a ground breaking Friendly in Europe against Andorra, our Senior side's first match against European opposition for at least twenty years.

AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B Final Standings

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

| 1st   | Q     | Japan     |       | 3     | 2     | 0     | 1     | 7     | 2     | +5    | 6     |
| 2nd   | Q     | Indonesia |       | 3     | 2     | 0     | 1     | 7     | 3     | +4    | 6     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 3rd   |       | India     |       | 3     | 1     | 1     | 1     | 2     | 4     | -2    | 4     |
| 4th   |       | Qatar     |       | 3     | 0     | 1     | 2     | 0     | 7     | -7    | 1     |
| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 10th November 2014
Lets begin this update by reviewing the remainder of the AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championships after our exit with India. As we know, we were bundled out in our final game following a heavy defeat to Indonesia, which made them Runner's-Up in Group B, and ensured they advanced, along with Group Winners and hosts, Japan. On the same day, Group D was settled. Iran played the early game, and were pushed to the limit by Palestine, who found a quick equaliser after falling behind in Hiroshima and were still level at the break. But an early second half goal from talented young right winger Mehdi Medizadeh killed off the challenge, and secured Iran's route into the last eight. They would later be joined by South Korea, who had a much more comfortable evening in Sendai against Tajikstan. They were already a goal up when their opponents went down to ten men just after the hour mark. Kim Young-Ho quickly added a second, and a second for the night from Kim Kwang-Chul secured a 3-0 win. It left them on the same goal difference as Iran, but the Middle Eastern nation had scored one more goal, and as such they topped the Group.

After a weekend off, the Knockout Stages started quickly, with a Monday afternoon match in Osaka between two Middle Eastern nations. Yes, another quirk of the competition, as the two Qualifiers from each Group faced off against each other in the Quarter-Finals. Very bizarre. Saudi Arabia were the favourites against United Arab Emirates, and Badr Al-Jasim scored to put them in front a minute before half time, only for the UAE to reply immediately through Mohammed Al-Zaabi. But as the final quarter of an hour approached, Al-Hilal striker Saied Al-Sultan scored for the Saudi's, and this time their opponents could not find a reply. Monday evening saw the hosts in action in Hiroshima, and they managed to squeeze by Indonesia with a goal just inside the final ten minutes from Gamba Osaka left sided player, Junya Kawata, as they too earned a passage into the last four.

The penultimate Quarter-Final, and early match on Tuesday evening was an intriguing one, with Australia and China meeting again in Tokyo. When they met in this very venue around a week ago, teen sensation Zhao Bin netted both goals in a 2-0 China win that led to them topping the Group. Reports suggest that they more than most were annoyed at the way the Tournament has been organised and scheduled, not a fan of having to face the Aussies again after securing top of the Group. It's hard to work out if it had an impact at all, but a goal early in the second half by Queensland Roar's incredibly prolific young striker, David Simpson, followed by a security goal just over ten minutes later from Michael Nunes, meant that the score was reversed, and Australia progressed, the current Champions knocked out. They would be joined later in the evening by Iran, who caused a bit of a shock by knocking out South Korea, the eleven times winners of this Tournament. An early goal from Zob-Ahan Esfahan forward Elçin Quliev put Iran in front, before a penalty equaliser less than ten minutes later from Kim Kwang-Chul. But Quliev scored a second before the break, and South Korea couldn't find an equaliser a second time. Our last four lineup is set.

Thursday, and it's Semi-Final day in the Tournament. The hosts are first up, and they were a completely different side to the one we rolled over in the Group Stage. The Japan side were three goals up by the break against Saudi Arabia, and even when they had Yusuke Mochizuki sent off five minutes after the restart, Saudi could only pull one goal back through Salim Fallatah. The hosts move on to the Final. The second Semi-Final in Hiroshima between Iran and Australia would reveal the identity of the other Finalist. A manic opening half hour produced four goals, and three of them went to the Aussies, striker David Simpson on target again, before Shahab Khademi equalised. But Melbourne Victory striker Matthew Ross netted twice in a seven minute spell, and completed his hatrick on the hour mark, meaning Australia will meet Japan in the Final.

The 3rd/4th Place Playoff and the Final were both played on the same day, Sunday 9th November. The Playoff was the curtain raiser, played in Hiroshima, and going the way of Saudi Arabia, as they won an un-enthralling encounter with Iran by a single goal, scored in the 73rd minute by right winger Hasan Al-Inezi of the Al-Qadisiyah club.

The Final was held in Osaka, and despite the hosts being involved, it was very poorly attended. That was a shame, as those who had gone along would be there to see the Japanese youngsters win the game in a tight and physical match that saw Ryo Usami of Urawa Reds score the only goal midway through the first half, and the Aussies hopes of pegging them back were dashed just moments into the second half when Adelaide United defender Terry Wilson was shown a straight red card for a very poor tackle, which allowed Japan to close out the match and win their first ever Title in this Tournament.

Tuesday 11th November
Some potentially excellent news today for the Senior National Team. Third tier French National side SAS Epinal have offered a contract to Free Agent striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. I was very keen to ensure we didn't lose the striker and his physical presence from our National Pool, and the risk of taking him to that Tournament appears to have paid off. It appears it may start a free for all to get his signature as well, with FC Rouen from the same level, but much higher up the table, also now tabling an offer to the striker as well.

It's not all good news today though, as 22 year old East Bengal centre back Gumpe Singh, who won his first cap last month against The Maldives, has been ruled out of the Senior National Squad due to be named in just 48 hours time for the match in Europe against Andorra. He has suffered a broken collarbone during a training session, ruling him out for anything up to two months. He is joined by attacking midfielder Sabri Gharbi, who has already been ruled out after suffering a chest injury during a weights session.

Wednesday 12th November
With the squad due to be named tomorrow, the latest version of the FIFA World Rankings have been named, and we have dropped one place, taking us down to 145th heading into the Friendly in Andorra.

Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury is unlikely to be included in that squad, but his options to sign for a new club continue to grow, with another French National club offering him a deal. Should he take up the offer to sign for Vannes Olympique, he would have the opportunity to potentially link up with countryman and fellow forward, Gautam Roy.

Thursday 13th November

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Senior Squad for Friendly International with Andorra - (A) 19/11/21014

| Name                          | Position    | Club                   | Height  | Age | Value | Caps | Goals |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Arindam Bhattacharya          | GK          | Mahindra Utd           | 6'1"    | 28  | £3K   |   1  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain              | GK          | JCT                    | 6'1"    | 22  | £2K   |   2  |   0   |
| Subrata Pal                   | GK          | East Bengal            | 6'0"    | 27  | £20K  |  10  |   0   |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Nirmal Chetri                 | D RC        | Vasco                  | 5'7"    | 24  | £1K   |   4  |   0   |
| Azadur Barman                 | D L         | Air India              | 5'8"    | 22  | £20K  |   2  |   0   |
| Paramjit Kumar                | D L         | Mohun Bagan            | 5'7"    | 20  | £1K   |   5  |   0   |
| Francisco Bhowmick            | D C         | Fire Services (HKG)    | 5'10"   | 19  |  -    |   2  |   0   |
| Francisco Reja                | D C         |Germinal Beerschot (BEL)| 5'8"    | 19  | £14K  |   0  |   0   |
| James Dissiramah              | D C         | East Bengal            | 5'10"   | 31  | £4K   |   4  |   1   |
| Jose Paul                     | D C         |WIT-Georgia Tbilisi(GEO)| 5'9"    | 22  | £30K  |   4  |   1   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju    | D C         | Churchill Bros         | 6'1"    | 27  | £1K   |  11  |   1   |
| Ajay Bailleux                 | D/WB R      | Mohammedan             | 5'10"   | 30  | -     |  15  |   0   |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep| D/AM C      | Mohun Bagan            | 5'7"    | 31  | £5K   |  24  |  10   |
| Joseph Lal                    | WB/AM R     | East Bengal            | 5'9"    | 22  | £10K  |   1  |   0   |
| William Jidayi                | DM, M RC    | Gela (ITA)             | 6'2"    | 30  | £4K   |  12  |   1   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo             | DM, M C     | Bengal Mumbai FC       | 5'11"   | 30  | -     |   7  |   0   |
| Kuldip Kumar                  | M C         | Mahindra Utd           | 5'8"    | 22  | £7K   |   1  |   0   |
| Sanjay Singh                  | D LC, M L   | Indian Telephone SC    | 5'7"    | 16  | £1K   |   0  |   0   |
| Yadwinder Khan                | M C         | Bengal Mumbai FC       | 5'8"    | 22  | £1K   |   3  |   0   |
| Raheem Alibhaï                | AM R        | Olympic Charleroi (BEL)| 5'7"    | 30  | £5K   |   3  |   0   |
| Joseph Pereira                | AM L        | Pune FC                | 5'6"    | 32  | £1K   |   3  |   0   |
| Aman Verma                    | AM/F C      | Bury (ENG)             | 5'11"   | 27  | £7K   |   3  |   1   |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Edu                           | ST          | Mohun Bagan            | 6'1"    | 31  | £1K   |   4  |   1   |
| Ranty Martins                 | ST          | Al-Nejmeh (LIB)        | 6'1"    | 28  | £10K  |   7  |   5   |
| Sandip Kumar                  | ST          | East Bengal            | 6'0"    | 22  | £20K  |   3  |   0   |
| Sunil Chetri                  | ST          | AS Rodos (GRE)         | 5'5"    | 30  | £60K  |  24  |  16   |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My fifth squad selection as India Manager, and it's for our eagerly anticipated trip to Europe for the Friendly International with Andorra at the Estadi Comunal d'Aixovall, where the temperatures are likely to be sub zero. That might prove an issue for some of our players, who might never have been exposed to temperatures like that, never mind played football in them. The Asian based players are due to meet in Mumbai on Sunday, while those of us based in Europe will head right to Andorra on Monday morning. Not ideal, but no point creating unnecessary travel for anyone.

Goalkeepers
For the first time since I took charge, there is a change amongst the trio of goalkeepers I have selected. The two domestic based keepers are keeping their places, with Subrata Pal possibly emerging as the number one as the East Bengal man is the only one in double figures for caps, though Mohammed Hossain did start last month against The Maldives, not exactly a sparkling performance from the JCT player, though both are performing very well at club level, with the pair conceding less than a goal a game on average. No, it's England based Jasbir Singh who has been left out this time. The Woking keeper has played plenty of football, nine starts in all competitions, as he appears to be job sharing with Terry Masterson. But his level is below the Irishman by quite some way, and this time, it has cost him his place. He's devastated at the news, but vows to improve and reclaim his squad place in the near future. As for his replacement, there is still no luck persuading AA Gent Under-19 stopper Ganesh Aerts to turn out for us, so we return to an older player, one returning to the Senior National fold after an absence of nearly five years. Arindam Bhattacharya deserves every credit for earning his recall, as he is doing it the hard way, turning in great performances week after week for Mahindra United, who are bottom of the table, winless, and with easily the worst defence in the Division. After challenging for 'best of the rest' for two successive seasons, they only just avoided relegation last season. It's difficult to see them doing the same again this year.

Defenders
So no Belgian based goalkeeper in the squad this time, but there is a fairly big breakthrough in front of the keepers, with a new addition to the central defenders we have to select from. At the age of just 19, Francisco Reja has abandoned his dream of playing for Belgium, the country where he has spent almost all his life, and will now represent the nation where he was born, the Mumbai native has played over a dozen times for Germinal Beerschot Under-21's this season, and at a very good level too. It's a fantastic addition to our options, at a time when Jose Paul is continuing his spectacular form further east in Europe with his Georgia club side, WIT-Georgia Tbilisi. The 22 year old is playing at an average of very close to 8.00 for the club who paid £30,000 for him in September, and then last month notched his first International goal in his fourth cap in our win over The Maldives. If these two can strike up a good partnership in the heart of our defence, it could be difficult for others to get a look in. Gumpe Singh misses out with injury after making his debut last time out, while both James Dissiramah and Manju Nanjangud Shivananju both doing just about enough with their clubs to keep the likes of Rikki Bains and Deepak Mondal out of the squad. There is one extra centre back selected this time though, and that place is given as a reward to Hong Kong based 19 year old, Francisco Bhowmick. I first capped him nearly 18 months ago when he was playing at the top level of football in Hong Kong, and things haven't gone as planned since then for him. He dropped right through the levels and straight into non-League to get some football, and while he wasn't superb, he has earned himself a move back into the League system. Now this season he has put a point and a half on his average rating, and thoroughly deserves to be involved right now.

While there are changes both amongst the goalkeeper and centre back members, the full backs personnel remain locked into place, with no one able to oust the four players currently ahead of the pack on both sides of the back four. Even with his worst start to a season of his career right now, Ajay Bailleux is still the best right back we have and has the best pedigree. His decision to bounce around clubs and change employers often isn't looking like a good one after ending up at Mohammedan, who have one of the weaker squads in the National Football League. The right side of our defence is a weakness, proved by the drop down in level in my opinion to his backup, 24 year old Nirmal Chetri of Vasco. He's playing for a side doing better than Bailleux's own side are doing, yet he is struggling to keep his own average rating up to a high level. On the other side of the defence, 20 year old Paramjit Kumar is the main man, but the five times capped left back may be about to make a mistake. Mohun Bagan have accepted a Transfer Offer from Vasco, and quite often, moves from Mohun or East Bengal to other domestic sides don't go as well as the players involved would like. At his age, and the first choice for Mohun, he has no reason to leave, even for a big pay rise. Behind him in the queue, and with two caps at the age of 22 is Azadur Barman. His start to the season has been blighted by the huge cuts made at his Air India club, who's spending of last year has now been replaced by wholesale selling and cuts. While they have also spent a lot of that money back into the squad, the quality has nosedived, and as such, they are looking at a relegation fight when they had aspirations of taking the fight to the big two.

Midfielders/Wingers
We have some players missing in action from the middle of the park, who would have been included for this squad. That list includes two of our European based midfielders, as French based duo Amit Singh and Karan Mollah were scheduled to be included after playing their part in the Asian Under-19 Championship Finals in Japan. But both returned injured, Singh with a calf strain, and Mollah with a facial injury. Also missing out is another of our players with European connections, as Sabri Gharbi is out with a chest injury. The Mohammedan midfielder is going to miss the chance to earn his tenth cap this time around. With 17 year old Danish based rising star Sheikh Thakur still proving to be stubborn to our advances and invites to become the latest young player to join our crusade towards the Top 100, there would be less changes than I would like to have made for this squad.

So five of the midfielders who were included last time are once more named in the squad, with the numbers reduced by one. Defensive midfielder and Mohun Bagan regular Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep has been named in every squad I've chosen, but has yet to play a single minute of International Football since I took charge. Four assists in six games for his club, as well as ten goals on the International stage from 24 caps indicate he is deserving of a chance to play. Compared to last season William Jidayi must be enjoying himself this campaign. He has already played more football this season for Gela than he did last year at the next level up with hometown club Ravenna. On top of that, he has also already improved on last seasons production, and added nearly 0.25 to his average rating. Also included, and classed as a more defensive operator in our midfield ranks is Mehrajuddin Wadoo. He is in a rich vein of form for Bengal Mumbai right now, as they push to try and earn a promotion to the NFL, and he is joined by his club mate, Yadwinder Khan, a more conventional centre midfielder who is playing at an average rating over and above the 8.00 mark this season in League matches. Not able to match his form, or anywhere near close, is Kuldip Kumar. He is still in credit after his good showing last season with Mahindra United, but he does need both his and the clubs form to improve if he is to keep a place locked in long term, with the competition for midfield places pretty hot right now. That leaves one spot for a new face, or in this case, a returning face. Aman Verma's form has been very good this season for Bury in the Blue Square Premier, and he contributed four goals to their push towards the promotion race, they currently sit second. With Manchester City loanee Peter Charlton alongside him, the pair have brought the best out of each other, and Verma wins the race to be Sabri Gharbi's replacement in this squad selection.

There is little change in the situation on the wings. On the right wing, Raheem Alibhaï continues to be the best option by some way, and while there has still been no real improvement in his club form with Belgian second tier side Olympic Charleroi, his International form is still more than good enough to keep him cemented as the first choice on that side of the park. The depth issue that meant a first cap last time out for Ryan D'Souza has cleared itself up a bit, enough to drop the East Bengal winger this time around. And with veteran Steven Dias or Air India pair Naoba Singh and Amar Thakur not able to offer any real form either, there is instead a recall for fit again once capped 22 year old East Bengal wide man, Joseph Lal, who's form is easily the best of any right winger in our Pool. With things improving on the right, it's now the left flank where we have some pretty major issues. 32 year old Pune FC player Joseph Pereira is the best option by some way here, and that isn't saying much right now to be truthful. His average rating is not much better than Alibhaï's at club level, and he isn't playing in Belgium! Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for us, the group of players isn't any better. Clifford Miranda is too old to show us anything new now, Reisangmi Vasum is out of form, Naresh Reja isn't playing at all, and Alan Cervinski is injured. So called up is the youngest player in this squad, and he is currently the form left winger in domestic Indian football. 16 year old Sanjay Singh's inclusion in the squad has been ridiculed by every section of the sports media, in much the same way that Amit Singh and Karan Mollah suffered, and we have seen how that tide has turned. Sanjay is not playing at a high level, turning out for the Indian Telephone Sports Club in the Bangalore Super League in his first season in Senior Football.

Strikers
With the powerful Chidi Edeh out until well into the new year, and with Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury still without a club, though sitting on a few offers after the gamble of taking him to the Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, there really isn't too much thinking to do regarding our selection of strikers this time around. It's the same four that were selected for duty in the last squad, which saw Ranty Martins notch his fifth International goal in just his seventh cap. The Nigerian born 31 year old is still tearing it up in Lebanon, where he has scored 14 times in 26 League matches for his Al-Nejmeh club, and his stats suggest he is simply getting better and better each season. It'll be a tough ask for him to catch and pass the International goals total of Greek based Sunil Chetri, a year his junior, and with an impressive sixteen goals from twenty four caps on the World stage. His goalscoring exploits haven't been as impressive for the relegated AS Rodos side he scored a dozen times for last season, but his all round game is improving, as he has already reached a career high four assists this season. 31 year old Brazilian born Edu is relishing his time in the shop window playing International Football. The man who was a prolific goalscorer with JCT has seen no reduction in his numbers at Mohun Bagan, six goals in six League matches suggesting the £12,000 fee was a superb bit of business. He still hasn't given up on earning a move into Europe yet either. Finally is the younger man of the group, East Bengal's 22 year old three times capped striker Sandip Kumar. Unlike the others, he hasn't yet got off the mark in International Football, but also unlike the others, he has his best years of his career stretching out in front of him. He is one of India's best paid players at the moment, and has returned eight goals from twelve matches in all competitions, and has a strike rate of better than a goal every other game in his fairly young career that has just crossed the 100 match mark.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 17th November 2014
The third offer was the charm, and Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury did not need to hear any more. He rejected the offers from SAS Epinal and FC Rouen, and has today signed for Vannes Olympique. The only snag, as far as us with an interest in his International future are concerned, is that the deal is only for the rest of the season. That gives the 6'4 striker around six months to impress and start finding the net. He'll have an International ally in the ranks too, with Gautam Roy in the squad he is joining.

Tuesday 18th November
With our match against Andorra set for tomorrow, we have today received some club instructions, or, as I prefer to look at them, club requests. There is only one, with AS Rodos in Greece asking that we play Sunil Chetri for no more than 45 minutes in this Friendly, as they have a big game coming up this weekend, and are operating with a small squad.

Wednesday 19th November
I'm shocked to have to report that we go into this match as underdogs with the bookies! I don't know if that's because of the weather that we're forecast to be encountered with, or if they just believe that a poor European nation is still better than what we would probably now describe as an average Asian side. Odds of 1/2 for Andorra and 9/2 for us when we are nearly 50 places above them in the World Rankings seem ludicrous to me, especially given our good recent form. Andorra have just one win since the save began, a 3-0 Friendly win at home to San Marino in February 2011. Since then they have lost all 22 matches, conceding eight goals on five different occasions, and at least five in another seven matches.

International Friendly
Estadi Comunal d'Aixovall, Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Andorra v India
Attendance :-
1,134. Weather :- Sleet, -5c.

This tiny 1,800 capacity all-seater stadium in this also tiny Principality tucked away in the Pyrenees, is almost full today for a game that is pretty insignificant in the larger footballing landscape, but is a fairly big deal for us. It is the largest stadium in the nation, and currently has a grass surface, which is due to changed to 3G in the future. Today, that surface is topped with a layer of snow, and sleet continues to fall with the game about to start, with the temperature down to -5c. There are some changes from the side that began the game in the win at home to The Maldives last month, with Belgian based 19 year old centre back Francisco Reja making his International debut, replacing the injured Gumpe Singh, who debuted in that game. In the midfield, the injured teenager Amit Singh is replaced by Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, who wins his 25th cap in this match. The top scoring active player for India at International level also returns to the side today, Sunil Chetri back in the side in place of Sandip Kumar. On the bench, Francisco Bhowmick is named in place of James Dissiramah, while Yadwinder Khan is also included amongst the subs in place of the injured Sabri Gharbi. There are changes to both winger replacements, Joseph Lal and potential debutant Sanjay Singh named, while Edu continues on the bench after coming on as a sub last time around.

We almost got off to the perfect start with less than a minute on the clock, Jose Paul sending the ball up the park, and Ranty Martins got in front of his marker and flicked the ball past him, and into the path of Sunil Chetri, his attempt to lift it over the dive of José Antonio was well kept out and pushed wide by the keeper. But it was an Andorra corner that almost produced the first goal in the 4th minute, Jorge Diez delivery was met at the near post by Santiago Vázquez, but he sent his header across the face of the goal and wide. 90 seconds later, we had the ball in the net, Joseph Pereira's through ball into the box picking out Raheem Alibhaï, the skipper blasting the ball inside the near post past Antonio, but unfortunately, it was chalked off, the winger was just a little quick off the mark and the offside trap caught him out. There was no Assistant to save Andorra in the 13th minute though, the ball played through our midfield, and out left to Paramjit Kumar. He sent Joseph Pereira into space down the wing, and he crossed first time, low and hard, picking out Ranty Martins on the edge of the box, and he struck a sweet first timer past Antonio and into the bottom corner to put us in front. And when we next poured forward in the 20th minute, we quickly doubled our lead. Kumar was involved again, playing a free kick short and quick to William Jidayi, and he whipped in a cross from the left, Chetri tried to connect and only hit his shot against a defender, and the ball spun loose for Alibhaï, who found the net again, slamming it into the roof of the net from close range, and it counted this time too, his first International goal. With the half hour mark approaching, Mohammed Hossain's clearance down the park was flicked on, firstly by Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, and then by Martins, as they sent Chetri in on goal again, this time he tried to beat Antonio with a low shot, the keeper saving that one with his leg. With five minutes left to play in the first half, Antonio was called right back into action, Jidayi's shot from range was kept out by the keeper, who couldn't get it to safety however, and he had to make a second and even better save from Martins effort to net the loose ball.

Two goals to the good at the break, and all was going well for us, so I saw no reason not to make a few changes. I settled on three, Pradeep, Pereira and Chetri all coming off, with Yadwinder Khan, debutant Sanjay Singh and Edu replacing the trio. Multiple changes in these International Friendly matches do often make the game more disjointed after the break, and that seemed to be the case here, with nothing of note happening until the 58th minute. Then Kumar launched a sensational 60 yard pass up the park, and picked out Martins, who brought the ball down on his chest and sent in a shot that was blocked before it reached Antonio, though the keeper wasn't out of the woods yet, as Jidayi pinged in a shot once the ball was recycled back into the box, Antonio batting that one away. With the halfway point of the second half approaching, I made two more changes, Ajay Bailleux at right back replaced by Nirmal Chetri, while Jidayi came off for Mehrajuddin Wadoo in the midfield. Those two new introductions quickly linked up, Wadoo receiving the ball and moving into the box, shaping to centre, then going for goal himself, his shot clearing the cross bar. But we did still have a goal left in us, and we had saved the best till last. Kumar received the ball on the left in the 74th minute, and sent it down the line. Lets see what the media have to say about Sanjay Singh now, after he let the ball run by him to trick his way past his marker, and then sent a smart left footed low cross in to the edge of the box, where Edu got in front of Diego Jiménez, the defender unable to lunge in after picking up an early second half booking, and the Brazilian striker swept into the box, and curled the ball into the far top corner for his second International goal in his fifth cap. I made my final change with ten minutes left to play, Jose Paul coming off, and Francisco Bhowmick given a ten minute cameo appearance as a reward for his great form this season. We still had time to create some more chances, Khan's through ball pitted Edu against Jiménez again, with our striker getting by him again, but this time sending his shot right at Antonio. With only injury time left to play, Wadoo tried to end the match with a spectacular effort from range, but he didn't quite get the dip on his shot, and we would have to settle for three, and a very efficient performance.

Andorra (0) 0
India (2) 3
-
Ranty Martins (13), Raheem Alibhaï (20), Edu (74)
Mohammed Hossain; Ajay Bailleux (Nirmal Chetri 64), Francisco Reja, Jose Paul (Francisco Bhowmick 80), Paramjit Kumar; Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep (Yadwinder Khan 45), William Jidayi (Mehrajuddin Wadoo 64); Raheem Alibhaï ©, Joseph Pereira (Sanjay Singh 45); Sunil Chetri (Edu 45), Ranty Martins.

Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Azadur Barman, Joseph Lal.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 35% - 65%. Man of the Match :- Raheem Alibhaï (India).

That was probably our most complete performance since I took over as manager on the sub-continent nation, and produces our fifth win in six games under my management, and means we have won all three of our matches this year. They are all Friendly matches though, and we are now desperate for some competitive football, just to find out how good we actually are. Our next action is scheduled for February at home to Kyrgyzstan, before a two game Tour of South East Asia in June, with matches away to Chinese Taipei and a much tougher test against Vietnam.

Thursday 20th November
Francisco Reja is returning to Belgium and club football with Germinal Beerschot as a fully fledged International player after making his debut in yesterdays win. He says his confidence is at an all time high now, and he is now looking to take the next step and progress from the Under-21 side, and into the First Team with the Pro League side. Also returning to Belgium after a very successful International Window is our skipper and 30 year old Olympic Charleroi winger, Raheem Alibhaï, after scoring not only his first International goal, but also his first goal of the season at any level. I'm hoping it brings about a sharp upturn in his club form with the second tier side as they look to move closer to the heels of the sides at the top of the Second League.

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Posted (edited)

Wednesday 17th December 2014
The final FIFA World Rankings of the year, and we move forward, or up, yet again. This time we've improved by 12 places, taking us up into 133rd position, moving us past three more Asian nations in the process, Turkmenistan, Thailand and Tajikstan. We are now also five places higher up the Rankings than Iceland. I've said it plenty of times before, but we are now desperate for some competitive football to try and push ourselves forward towards that Top 100, our next goal.

Wednesday 31st December
The 'Best Eleven' for the year of 2014 in Indian International Football was today announced. With only three matches played, the bar wasn't too high for selection. Ranty Martins was the player selected with the best average rating, posting a 7.50 after playing twice and scoring twice.

Mohammed Hossain,
Ajay Bailleux, Jose Paul, Francisco Reja, Paramjit Kumar,
Raheem Alibhaï, William Jidayi, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Joseph Pereira,
Ranty Martins, Sunil Chetri.

Subs :- Subrata Pal, Nirmal Chetri, Rikki Bains, Kuldip Kumar, Sabri Gharbi, Edu, Sandip Kumar.

Five of those selected have also been inducted into India's Best Ever All Time XI. Again, given that we have only played Friendly Matches, there really isn't a very high entry level here. Those selected are Paramjit Kumar,  Francisco Reja (despite playing only once for his country), and Joseph Pereira, with Nirmal Chetri and Edu included on the bench for this All Time XI side. It is worth noting that of the 18 players involved, only two are no longer active in their careers.

Wednesday 14th January 2015
We remain in 133rd place for the opening FIFA World Rankings release of 2015. On the same day, we hear from the AFC regarding the race to host the 2019 version of the Asian Nations Cup. The next host is due to be announced after this years Tournament, which begins in mid-July in China. It appears that there are three good options on the table, including one from current holders Australia, who have never hosted this event and another from the United Arab Emirates, who last hosted the event in 1996. But the current favourite is rumoured to be a bid from Kuwait, who have won the Tournament just once, which was on the one occasion that hosted the event, back in 1980.

Thursday 5th February

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Senior Squad for International Friendly with Kyrgyzstan - (H) 11/2/2015

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

| Arindam Bhattacharya         | GK     | Mahindra Utd             | 6'1"    | 28      | £4K     |   1  |   0   |
| Mohammed Hossain             | GK     | JCT                      | 6'1"    | 22      | £2K     |   3  |   0   |
| Subrata Pal                  | GK     | East Bengal              | 6'0"    | 28      | £20K    |  10  |   0   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Vinod Ghosh                  | D RC   | Dempo                    | 5'7"    | 22      | £7K     |   0  |   0   |
| Paramjit Kumar               | D L    | Mohun Bagan              | 5'7"    | 20      | £1K     |   6  |   0   |
| Adil Kundu                   | D C    | Mohun Bagan              | 5'8"    | 23      | £16K    |   2  |   0   |
| Francisco Bhowmick           | D C    | Fire Services (HKG)      | 5'10"   | 19      | -       |   3  |   0   |
| Francisco Reja               | D C    | Germinal Beerschot (BEL) | 5'8"    | 19      | £150K   |   1  |   0   |
| Gumpe Singh                  | D C    | East Bengal              | 5'7"    | 23      | £4K     |   1  |   0   |
| Jose Paul                    | D C    | WIT-Georgia Tbilisi (GEO)| 5'9"    | 22      | £30K    |   5  |   1   |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju   | D C    | Churchill Bros           | 6'1"    | 27      | £1K     |  11  |   1   |
| Ajay Bailleux                | D/WB R | Mohammedan               | 5'10"   | 31      | £1K     |  16  |   0   |
| Rakesh Pereira               | D/WB L | United SC                | 5'8"    | 22      | £1K     |   0  |   0   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Sanjay Singh                 |D LC,M L| Indian Telephone SC      | 5'7"    | 16      | £1K     |   1  |   0   |
|Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep| D/AM C | Mohun Bagan              | 5'7"    | 31      | £3K     |  25  |  10   |
| William Jidayi               |DM,M RC | Gela (ITA)               | 6'2"    | 30      | £3K     |  13  |   1   |
| Amit Singh                   | DM,M C | FC Nantes (FRA)          | 5'10"   | 16      | £45K    |   3  |   0   |
| Mehrajuddin Wadoo            | DM,M C | Bengal Mumbai FC         | 5'11"   | 30      | -       |   8  |   0   |
| Yadwinder Khan               | M C    | Bengal Mumbai FC         | 5'8"    | 23      | £2K     |   4  |   0   |
| Raheem Alibhaï               | AM R   | Olympic Charleroi (BEL)  | 5'7"    | 30      | £14K    |   4  |   1   |
| Alan Cervinski               | AM L   | Toowoomba Raiders (AUS)  | 5'8"    | 20      | -       |   1  |   0   |
| Sabri Gharbi                 | AM C   | Mohammedan               | 5'7"    | 26      | £6K     |   9  |   1   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Edu                          | ST     | Mohun Bagan              | 6'1"    | 31      | £9K     |   5  |   2   |
| Ranty Martins                | ST     | Al-Nejmeh (LIB)          | 6'1"    | 28      | £12K    |   8  |   6   |
| Sandip Kumar                 | ST     | East Bengal              | 6'0"    | 23      | £50K    |   3  |   0   |
| Sunil Chetri                 | ST     | AS Rodos (GRE)           | 5'5"    | 30      | £55K    |  25  |  16   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is my sixth squad selection as the manager of India, as we prepare for next Wednesday's home Friendly International with Kyrgyzstan in Kolkata. It's the first of only two squads that I'm currently scheduled to name this year, with a two match Tour of South East Asia in the diary for this summer. Our opponents were ahead of us in the FIFA World Rankings when this match was made, but not anymore. They come into the match ranked 149th in the World, while we are placed 133rd. The squad has now started to become a bit more settled, but there are a few changes this time around.

Goalkeepers
There is no change in the three goalkeepers selected this time around. To be honest, I'm pretty happy with the trio we have, and there would likely only be a change if Jasbir Singh can significantly improve his form, or if youngster Ganesh Aerts decides to pledge his allegiance to the country of his heritage. As neither of those happened, it is as we were. Many people believe that Subrata Pal is the best of the three. He is certainly the most experienced on the International stage, and the guy who plays for the biggest club out of the three. But it's Mohammed Hossain who is the form keeper, with clean sheets in half of his League matches this season, and an average of over 7.00 in 25 matches in all competitions.

Defenders
The centre back selection was the first to cause some selection headaches, but not in a bad way. Gumpe Singh is available again after missing the Andorra trip through injury, and despite being very small for a centre back, he returns to the squad on merit from his club form with East Bengal. Also included, and for the first time under my management, is 23 year old Mohun Bagan stalwart Adil Kundu. First capped back in the days of Bobby Houghton, he has flown under the radar for the last two years, but he is bang in form right now, and is superb with the ball at his feet. So that is two added to the squad, and no reason to drop four of the five that were included last time around. Francisco Reja continues to make strides in Belgium, his value has rocketed over ten times his market value when he was selected for his India debut last time out, and with Jose Paul alongside him and still turning heads with is form in Georgia, it's going to be difficult for others to move them aside. Manju Nanjangud Shivananju continues to play at a high level for Churchill Brothers, while in Hong Kong, the form of Francisco Bhowmick continues to stand out in the level of football he is currently playing in. The odd man out is 31 year old James Dissiramah, and he is left out, with the decision made to sacrifice one midfielder to include an extra centre back this time.

The full backs have been very much locked in over recent squad selections, but not this time, with a change at either end of the back four. On the right, sixteen times capped 31 year old Ajay Bailleux seems to be the man in control still, though he may currently be a little pre-occupied, with his club future in the air as Mohammedan are reportedly in talks about moving him on to Mahindra United, who would be his sixth club in India since returning from Europe. He has a new deputy for this match, with Vasco's right back Nirmal Chetri ruled out with a damaged heel. Called up in his place is Dempo's potential debutant, Vinod Ghosh. He is 22 years old, and has played ten times for the Under-21 side, and is very attacking, but not to the detriment of his defensive duties. On the opposite side, Paramjit Kumar continues to set the bar high as the first choice left back, though I still maintain it would be a mistake for him to move from Mohun Bagan to Vasco, a deal still rumoured to be a possibility. The bar has been set too high this time for the barman (sorry), with Azadur Barman falling out of favour this time, the 22 year old Air India man is dropped from this squad. In his place, I have selected a second potential debutant, United SC's 22 year old Rakesh Pereira, capped twice at the Under-21 level, and already with over 100 League appearances to his name. He rebuilt his career after a poor start with Mumbai, dropping a level with Pune and earning a move to SC Goa, who cashed in when they sold him on to United.

Midfielders/Wingers
The centre midfield area caused as many headaches as I had at centre back, also a good thing, but there was one less spot up for grabs this time. The main reason that it was so tough to make decisions was a trio of players who have been in the frame are back from injury, and I have one less space than I did last time after selecting an extra centre back. Kuldip Kumar is out though, the Mahindra United player has a torn calf muscle that will keep him out for the majority of what remains in the 2014/15 season. Denmark based Sheikh Thakur still hasn't been talked into playing for India, so that is at least an issue we don't have to deal with. However, Amit Singh, Sabri Gharbi and Karan Mollah are all available again. There is no reason based on form at club or International level to drop Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, Yadwinder Khan or Mehrajuddin Wadoo. I can't quite make the same case for Aman Verma, which means that with Kumar's injury, there are two spots up for grabs. They go to Singh and Gharbi, which means no recall for Karan Mollah despite his continued development in France. It also means that there isn't room for William Jidayi, who's form in Italy is a little inconsistent......

however! As discussed on previous selections, our depth on the wings is a real issue for us. At least we have a guy who looks capable on the right, with current Captain of the Senior Squad, and Belgium based, Raheem Alibhaï, starting to see an upturn in form since our last International, where he scored his first goal for his country. He is 30 now, and has picked up more cards than he has scoring production by way of goals or assists for Olympic Charleroi this season. Yet he is still way above the level of any other winger we have. Last time out, once capped Joseph Lal of East Bengal was picked, but while the 22 year old has all the ability required, his form isn't great, and that means a reprieve for William Jidayi, who can cover the right flank as well as the midfield. He gets the nod ahead of Naoba Singh, who is in poor form at Air India, and Ryan D'Souza, who ran the Italy based 30 year old close for the spot. But that combination on the right is an absolute luxury compared to our options on the left wing. The man we've been turning too here is Pune's 32 year old Jospeh Pereira. But he is out of this one, picking up an injury a week ago. That has caused another huge headache, and this time not a good one. As much as there is little depth on the right wing, there are huge issues on the left. 16 year old Sanjay Singh debuted in Andorra, and created our third goal. He is playing at a lower level in the domestic game, but he is on form, and stays in the squad. He is joined by a player who already, aged just 20, may be getting one of his last shots on the Senior International stage. When Alan Cervinski left India to move to Australia with his family, I got him capped quickly, believing he would kick on and become a very useful player for us. In reality, that hasn't happened at all, in over fifty games for Toowoomba Raiders, he has two goals and eight assists. Alan has to improve in the near future to remain in consideration for International selection.

Strikers
We pretty much come full circle, as the strikers mirror the goalkeepers, remaining exactly as they were from the last squad. Actually, this is the third squad in a row where the strikers have remained the same. It could have been a different story though. We now have two of our forwards playing at a club together in France. If you've been following along, you may recall that Vannes Olympique already employed Gautam Roy, and added Free Agent and 6'4 former Saint-Etienne youngster Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury for the rest of the season. My vision of them striking up a sublime partnership haven't quite panned out. Roy is out, probably until the start of next season after breaking his leg. Chowdhury is playing for the third tier side though, and has appeared in six matches overall so far, and while he hasn't found the net, he is also still trying to reach full fitness. On that basis he has also been left out. On his way back from injury too is Chidi Edeh, who spent four months out with a broken foot. He is quickly back into the swing of things, but he also isn't match fit yet, and isn't considered for this one. And so the same four strikers continue, with Sandip Kumar and Edu both well into double figures for their clubs in the National Football League, and Sunil Chetri is doing better than a goal every three matches for AS Rodos in Greece. The odd man out is Ranty Martins, as the season is about a month away from starting in Lebanon. But he brings so much to our strikeforce right now, with six goals in eight caps, I can't leave the Nigerian born former Dempo striker out.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

Sunday 8th February 2015
With my duties at Coleraine done for the weekend, I make my way to India ready for the International Window, and our match with Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday. While I am on the way, there is some exciting news announced. India and it's FA have agreed in principle to play two Friendly matches with European opposition in 2016. The first would be an away match, though not for me, as India will play Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Saturday 4th June, a week before the UEFA 2016 European Championship Finals are due to start. There is also an agreement in principle for India to host a European nation later in the year, with Cyprus scheduled to play us in Kolkata on Saturday 8th October. Both are labelled as 'in principle' because Northern Ireland have reserved the right to move or cancel the game depending on their potential participation in the Euro's, while Cyprus point out that they may end up being involved in FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifying action on the weekend that has been agreed.

Tuesday 10th February
The press speculate that there will be a chance to experiment in tomorrow's match, but it is hardly a squad chock full of experience, and with that in mind, I'll be playing my strongest lineup, as we continue to build and move forward together, and look to improve our Rankings still further to ensure that we have the best platform and seeding possible when we move into competitive matches. I'm joined in the press conference by East Bengal keeper Subrata Pal, who tells the assembled press that there is a great spirit in the squad, and a strong belief that we are capable of winning the match.

Wednesday 11th February

International Friendly
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India
India v Kyrgyzstan
Attendance :-
72,057. Weather :- Dry, 3c.

A cold afternoon in Eastern India, but another big crowd in this huge 120,000 capacity bowl of a stadium for our latest Friendly. Expectations continue to increase as we move through the Rankings, and those in attendance were hopeful of seeing another win here. There are four changes in the starting lineup from the win in Andorra, almost all through the midfield area of the park. The one that isn't is in goal, where Arindam Bhattacharya is given a game today. Both Amit Singh and Sabri Gharbi return to start the match after missing out last time through injury. On the left wing, with Joseph Pereira out this time, Alan Cervinski gets a chance to stake his claim for more future involvement. On the bench, Vinod Ghosh could be the only debutant this time, with Adil Kundu and Gumpe Singh both on the bench for their return to the squad.

The right side of the park was our preferred area of attack early on, but the best platform we created saw Ajay Bailleux, Sunil Chetri and Raheem Alibhaï play a nice triangle of passes to allow the latter space for a deep cross, but he couldn't pick out Paramjit Kumar, who had snuck into the back post area. Ranty Martins chased back shortly after and won the ball on the halfway line, laying it off to Sabri Gharbi who sent Chetri into plenty of space in the right channel of the box, but he couldn't escape the attention of a pair of defenders, and failed to get his shot away. A Kumar free kick flashed across the face of goal on the half hour mark, but five minutes later a Kyrgyzstan attack was foiled, and we counter attacked with pace. Alibhaï sent the ball down the park to Chetri on the halfway, and he spun away from a defender and set off down the right wing. As he got towards the box, he laid the ball off for Gharbi, and the midfielder sent a square cross to Martins on the edge of the box, and he met it with a sweet rising volley that flew by Akexandr Volodin, and into the roof of the net. And four minutes later, Martins was at it again. Kumar floated over a corner, and Volodin's charge off his line was ill advised, as Martins beat winger Sergey Saidov in the air easily, and planted his header beyond the stranded keeper, making it a double in less than five minutes and putting us firmly in control at the break.

That quickfire Martins double gave us the freedom to make a few half time changes, and I made two, Jose Paul and the quiet Amit Singh replaced with Adil Kundu and Yadwinder Khan. The Kyrgyz's had not made any changes, and we tried to exploit them again on the hour. Ildor Ismoilov went down pretty theatrically on the halfway line under a challenge from Yadwinder Khan, and when the ref waved play on, our sub midfielder powered forward. He then sent the ball left, where Alan Cervinski played a one-two with Kumar to get past a defender and into space, and he played a superb through ball down the left channel for Chetri, who skipped around Volodin as he came off his line, but then buried his tough angle shot into the near side netting. Midway through the second half, and our guests had started to turn to their subs bench, while we have started turning to Cervinski to provide the bullets. The Australia based winger picked out Chetri at the far post with a perfect cross, but this time the striker wanted a touch first, allowing the defence to converge on him. To his credit, he still managed to get a shot in, but it was well off target. With around twenty minutes remaining, Kyrgyzstan rallied a bit, seeing a period of pressure around our penalty box, and eventually they got the ball to Pavel Jumakhanov, the midfielder hitting a first time shot that beat a so far untested Arindam Bhattacharya, but rattled the bar. I emptied the bench, making my remaining four changes, Ajay Bailleux, Gharbi, Cervinski and Chetri all coming off, and on came debutant Vinod Ghosh, William Jidayi, Sanjay Singh and Edu. Substitute Daulet Fomichev went for goal when everyone was expecting a cross from a free kick on the corner of our penalty box, but he failed to test our keeper either, his effort was too high. At the other end, we had one last chance to add to our score, Kumar picking out Edu on the left, and his low cross found Martins, who was seeking a hatrick and let another shot go from the edge of the box, this one clipping the bar on it's way over.

India (2) 2 - Ranty Martins (35,39)
Kyrgyzstan (0) 0
Arindam Bhattacharya; Ajay Bailleux (Vinod Ghosh 74), Francisco Reja, Jose Paul (Adil Kundu 45), Paramjit Kumar; Amit Singh (Yadwinder Khan 45), Sabri Gharbi (William Jidayi 74); Raheem Alibhaï ©, Alan Cervinski (Sanjay Sing 74); Sunil Chetri (Edu 74), Ranty Martins.
Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Gumpe Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Ranty Martins (India).

When this match was made, I was hopeful that we would have improved enough to give a higher ranked side a good game, and maybe sneak a win out of it. Instead, we came into the match as the higher ranked side, and won very comfortably, which I would very much like to take as a sign of the continued progress we are making. I'm a very happy Manager as I prepare to make the trip back to Europe and the day job.

I'm loathe to pick out individuals after such a good all around team performance, but I'm going to pick out two. Of course, Ranty Martins is one. Eight goals in nine caps now for the Lebanon based striker, who has now turned 28 and is arguably about to reach his peak years. While he is in the team, we always look capable of finding a goal or two, and he has plenty of football left in him yet.

I'm also going to pick out Alan Cervinski. There was a lot of pressure on the 20 year old today, and he knew he had to show up and be counted. He did too, providing some excellent wide play and crosses, particularly in the second half. Now we need to see Alan kick on at club level, where he is out of contract in ten weeks. It would be a shame to lose him, especially after a performance like that one, as he has shown glimpses that there is more to come. He just needs to do it consistently now, for both club and country.

Thursday 12th February
It was all a little embarrassing when debutant Vinod Ghosh was interviewed last night after becoming the latest player I capped for India. He kept his composure for a little while, before launching into an epic speech that wouldn't have looked out of place at the Oscars, including a thank you for his Mum and Dad. Then he cried....

Wednesday 18th February
The new version of the FIFA World Rankings are released this morning, and it's another climb up the ladder for us after last weeks win over Kyrgyzstan. A six place rise moves us up into 127th place, taking us above nations such as Luxembourg and Niger, as we move onto 129 points. We are now closing in on European nations such as Armenia, Latvia and Kazakhstan.

FIFA World Rankings, as of Wednesday 18th February 2015

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |

| 117th              | Burundi                          | -1                 | 171                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 118th              | Gabon                            | +1                 | 170                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 119th              | Armenia                          | -4                 | 169                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 120th              | Honduras                         | -                  | 168                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 121st              | Latvia                           | -4                 | 164                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 122nd              | Uganda                           | -                  | 155                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 123rd              | Kazakhstan                       | -                  | 152                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 124th              | Cook Islands                     | +2                 | 151                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 125th              | Samoa                            | -                  | 148                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 126th              | Cuba                             | -2                 | 141                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 127th              | India                            | +6                 | 129                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 128th              | New Caledonia                    | -                  | 128                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 129th              | Niger                            | -2                 | 126                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 130th              | Tanzania                         | -                  | 106                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 131st              | Luxembourg                       | -2                 | 105                |
|   =                | Namibia                          | -                  | 105                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 133rd              | Yemen                            | -2                 | 103                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 134th              | Guyana                           | +8                 | 100                |
|   =                | Kenya                            | -1                 | 100                |
|   =                | Tonga                            | -1                 | 100                |
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 137th              | Iceland                          | -1                 | 99                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

That doesn't make too bad reading for us at all. By the next time we play in June, I will have been in charge of India for two years, and without playing any competitive Senior football whatsoever, assuming our position remains the same, we will have jumped 75 places up the Rankings in that time spell. Any way you look at it, that is a huge improvement, as we have added 125 points to our total in that time. And on the next post, I'll illustrate how much our Ranking in our own continent has improved in that time. We are now ranked 20th of the 46 Asian nations, putting us well inside the top half, though the next gap will be tough to make up. Vietnam are almost 60 more points in front of us in 19th in the AFC, but in 18th is Singapore, who sit in the 100th place in the World Rankings that we are aiming to reach, but are a huge 108 points ahead of us. So while our work so far has been great, there is still a huge amount to do here to make us competitive, even just amongst the AFC nations.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Asian Nations in the FIFA World Rankings, as of Wednesday 18th February 2015

| Rank               | Nation                           | Change             | Points             |
 
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 21st               | South Korea                      | -                  | 1080               |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 25th               | Saudi Arabia                     | +1                 | 968                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 36th               | Japan                            | +2                 | 761                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 54th               | China PR                         | +5                 | 590                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 59th               | Australia                        | -2                 | 562                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 60th               | Iran                             | +15                | 553                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 62nd               | Oman                             | -                  | 537                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 68th               | Uzbekistan                       | -1                 | 474                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 77th               | Syria                            | -7                 | 412                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 80th               | Bahrain                          | +6                 | 368                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 81st               | United Arab Emirates             | +4                 | 364                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 82nd               | Iraq                             | -2                 | 350                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 85th               | Kuwait                           | -3                 | 326                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 86th               | Indonesia                        | +3                 | 324                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 89th               | Lebanon                          | -2                 | 317                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 93rd               | Qatar                            | -1                 | 289                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 99th               | Jordan                           | +3                 | 238                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 100th              | Singapore                        | +5                 | 237                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 111th              | Vietnam                          | -2                 | 187                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 127th              | India                            | +6                 | 129                |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 133rd              | Yemen                            | -2                 | 103                |
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 144th              | Thailand                         | -                  | 78                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 145th              | Turkmenistan                     | -4                 | 78                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 150th              | Tajikistan                       | -3                 | 71                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 151st              | Brunei Darussalam                | -1                 | 69                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 152nd              | Hong Kong (China PR)             | -1                 | 69                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 154th              | Guam                             | -2                 | 66                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 155th              | North Korea                      | -1                 | 64                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 156th              | Kyrgyzstan                       | -7                 | 62                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 157th              | Bangladesh                       | -1                 | 61                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 160th              | Malaysia                         | +1                 | 52                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 161st              | Laos                             | +1                 | 50                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 163rd              | Chinese Taipei (China PR)        | -                  | 48                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 168th              | Maldives                         | +1                 | 41                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 170th              | The Philippines                  | +11                | 38                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 172nd              | Myanmar                          | -2                 | 34                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 175th              | Mongolia                         | -2                 | 31                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 179th              | Sri Lanka                        | -                  | 23                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 181st              | Palestine                        | -3                 | 21                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 190th              | Nepal                            | -1                 | 15                 |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 197th              | East Timor                       | +2                 | 8                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 198th              | Bhutan                           | -7                 | 7                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 202nd              | Pakistan                         | -                  | 3                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 203rd              | Afghanistan                      | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 204th              | Cambodia                         | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 206th              | Macau (China PR)                 | -                  | 0                  |
| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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March 2015
Without playing, we move ourselves up one spot in the FIFA World Rankings, overtaking Continental rivals Vietnam who took a huge points hit and dropped 17 places, and nudging ourselves up to 126th place.

Wednesday 1st April
Yesterday I was contacted by the Indian FA, who have exhausted their options of Managers to put in charge of the Under-23 side, who next week must name a squad to play their First Qualifying Round tie for the 2016 Olympic Games. The draw has been fairly kind, and we have a two-legged tie with Palestine, which is very winnable for us. It's too good an opportunity to pass up.

Tuesday 7th April

**SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
India Under-23 Squad for the 2016 Olympic Games Asian Qualifying First Round v Palestine, Saturday 11/4/2015 (H) & Saturday 18/4/2015 (A)

| Name               | Position | Club                    | Height | Age | Value | International Status  |

| Mohammed Hossain   | GK       |           JCT           | 6'1"   | 22  | £2K   |     3 Senior Caps     |
| Shankar Firoze     | GK       |          Vasco          | 5'11"  | 22  | £2K   |  Capped at Under-19   |
| Seby Kumar         | GK       |          Dempo          | 5'8"   | 19  | £4K   |    7 Under-21 Caps    |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Francisco Reja     | D C      | Germinal Beerschot (BEL)| 5'8"   | 19  | £300K |     2 Senior Caps     |
| Vinod Ghosh        | D RC     |          Dempo          | 5'7"   | 22  | £8K   |     1 Senior Cap      |
| Azadur Barman      | D L      |        Air India        | 5'8"   | 22  | £2K   |     2 Senior Caps     |
| Paramjit Kumar     | D L      |       Mohun Bagan       | 5'7"   | 20  | £1K   |     7 Senior Caps     |
| Jose Paul          | D C      |WIT-Georgia Tbilisi (GEO)| 5'9"   | 23  | £14K  | 6 Senior Caps/1 Goal  |
| Minguel Chetri     | D C      |         SC Goa          | 5'11"  | 22  | £1K   |8 Under-21 Caps/0 Goals|
| Gumpe Singh        | D C      |       East Bengal       | 5'7"   | 23  | £4K   |     1 Senior Cap      |
| Francisco Bhowmick | D C      |   Fire Services (HKG)   | 5'10"  | 19  | -     |     3 Senior Caps     |
| Anwar              | D/M C    |       East Bengal       | 5'10"  | 17  | £6K   |     1 Under-21 Cap    |
| Joseph Lal         | WB/AM R  |       East Bengal       | 5'9"   | 22  | £7K   |     1 Senior Cap      |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Sanjay Singh       | D LC,M L |   Indian Telephone SC   | 5'7"   | 16  | -     |     2 Senior Caps     |
| Amit Singh         | DM, M C  |     FC Nantes (FRA)     | 5'10"  | 16  | £50K  |     4 Senior Caps     |
| Gouranga Barman    | M R      |     Bengal Mumbai FC    | 5'9"   | 22  | -     |     2 Senior Caps     |
| Yadwinder Khan     | M C      |     Bengal Mumbai FC    | 5'8"   | 23  | £2K   |     5 Senior Caps     |
| Asif Hossain       | M C      |        Mohammedan       | 5'8"   | 22  | £4K   |10 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal|
| Balpreet Singh     | M C      |           Vasco         | 5'10"  | 21  | £3K   |   Capped at Under-19  |
| Subhash Rao        | AM RC    |        Viva Kerala      | 5'9"   | 21  | £1K   |6 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal |
| Alan Cervinski     | AM L     | Toowoomba Raiders (AUS) | 5'8"   | 20  | -     |     2 Senior Caps     |
| Bimal Singh        | AM L     |           Vasco         | 5'9"   | 19  | £5K   |        Uncapped       |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Naushad Ghosh      | ST       |          Pune FC        | 5'9"   | 23  | £7K   | 1 Under-21 Cap/1 Goal |
| Asif Ali           | ST       |         Mohammedan      | 5'7"   | 21  | £6K   |     1 Senior Cap      |
| Steven Chakraborty | ST       |         Air India       | 6'0"   | 21  | £2K   |1 Under-21 Cap/0 Goals |
| Mohammed Islam     | ST       |          Goan SC        | 5'9"   | 17  | £30K  |        Uncapped       |
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have picked what I believe is the strongest squad available to me for the Under-23's, as India takes it's first steps on a road that is hoped will lead to the 2016 Olympic Games Tournament which will take place next summer in Italy. Four years ago, India reached the final Third Round of the Qualifying process, but placed in a group of four which also included Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Uzbekistan, they were well outmatched, scoring just a single point from their six Group C matches. That was after they had beaten The Philippines and Bahrain over two legged ties. We were again ranked high enough to avoid the initial Preliminary Round this time, and pitched in at the First Round Stage of the Qualifying process, we have been drawn against Palestine, currently ranked 181st in the World Rankings. They defeated Mongolia 4-2 over their two legged tie, and it is expected that we will dispatch them with relative ease in this round, though I'm taking no chances, with over half of our twenty six strong squad having played Senior International football, most of them having been capped by myself, and only two have not already represented India at some level of football. To be honest, the squad would have been stronger still but for some injuries. You'll probably have started to notice a tried and tested formula with my squad selections when it comes to a 26 man squad. Two players for each position, then an extra goalkeeper, centre back and centre midfielder. The remaining place is then allocated as needed. Slight change this time around though.

Goalkeepers :-
I was hopeful that young Ganesh Aerts might be swayed by a chance to play in the Olympic Qualifiers without making himself ineligible for Belgium, but the 18 year old AA Gent keeper still isn't interested right now. So our number one is likely to be the only one of our Senior trio who is eligible for this tournament, Mohammed Hossain of JCT, who remains in excellent form. Supporting him will be Shankar Firoze, a 22 year old playing for Vasco who hasn't played International Football since Under-19 level, and superb nineteen year old Seby Kumar, who already has seven caps for the Under-21's and has established himself as Dempo's first choice keeper.

Defenders :- 
All but two of the defenders selected are Senior International players, and most have been regulars in the squad during my time as Manager. The other two are both Under-21 Internationals, so we are going with a very experienced group of defenders for the tie. Our first choice centre back pairing of Francisco Reja and Jose Paul are both selected, with both Gumpe Singh and rapidly improving Hong Kong based Francisco Bhowmick also included in this squad. A pair from our Under-21 squad are also included, Minguel Chetri is very experienced at that level with eight caps and has established himself in the SC Goa side since his arrival in the summer. Anwar might only be seventeen, but he has forced his way into the East Bengal side, and played 25 League games for them over the last eighteen months or so. Capable of playing in midfield as well, he is a very good prospect, and could be the next young Indian player to make the move abroad.

In the right back position, Vinod Ghosh earned his first Senior cap last time out from the substitutes bench against Kyrgyzstan, and has also been in superb form this season for Dempo, passing the 100 League games mark in his young career, and he has created almost ten goals in all competitions as well. Joining him is Jospeh Lal, a player who hasn't earned a cap since my arrival, but has been on the fringes due to his attacking play for East Bengal, where he has played almost fifty League matches in the last three seasons. He's very much just cover in this position, as he is expected to start on the right wing.

On the left side of the back four, we are in very good hands. The pair that have been in the Senior squad almost all the way through my tenure are reunited. Paramjit Kumar has been outstanding for us over the two years I've been in the job, with performances on the International stage that belie his young age. After being left out for the game against Kyrgyzstan because of his fairly poor form, Azadur Barman has improved his club form a little with Air India, and now has a chance to get himself back in the International picture here.

Midfielders/Wingers :-
It's not quite the same story further up the park as it is with the rearguard. A few that would have been included in the middle of the park are not available through injury, with Karan Mollah of AS Poissy out with a pulled hamstring, and Philip Paite of Dempo also missing out with a foot injury. Also ruled out as slightly too risky to include is Mahindra United's midfielder Kuldip Kumar. However, FC Nantes youngster, and already four times capped Amit Singh is included, despite suffering from bruised ribs. It's 50/50 whether he will play in the First Leg. Also joining him from the Senior Squad is 23 year old Yadwinder Khan, probably the form player in the squad right now, he's absolutely flying with Bengal Mumbai. Joining them are three players who haven't yet had Full International honours. Asif Hossain is enjoying regular football with Mohammedan and has ten caps for the Under-21 side, Balpreet Singh has plenty of experience at National Football League level, but hasn't played any higher than Under-19 level on the International stage, so if he plays he will be stepping up a level or two. Finally is a more attacking option in Subhash Rao, who is having a superb season with Viva Kerala, but that is a level down the ladder from the NFL, and he is also providing cover for the right wing.

That cover could be needed as well. Joseph Lal is expected to be first choice on the right wing, though the once capped East Bengal winger is not playing to top form, despite having five goals and four assists in domestic football so far this season. The understudy is 22 year old Gouranga Barman, a Bengal Mumbai winger who is playing pretty well, but hasn't featured in International Football for a while, his two Senior caps both coming under Bobby Houghton.

The left wing is where I decide to select my extra player this time, and that's because while I have selected Alan Cervinski after his good outing against Kyrgyzstan, the Aussie based winger is a doubt for the First Leg as he is returning from a twisted knee. No one can say that I haven't given the lad plenty of opportunity to convince everyone he is capable at International Level. Selected alongside him is sixteen year old Sanjay Singh, who was labelled as not good enough when first selected, but now has two Senior Caps and might take a bit of shifting from the squad. A bit of extra experience here as well will do him the world of good, and his domestic form suggests he can handle that. Bimal Singh is included as the floating player as we would be short of cover if Cervinski isn't fit for either game. The first of our two players who are uncapped at any level, the nineteen year old hasn't yet quite cracked it as a regular at Vasco, but his ability to beat a marker has given him this chance.

Strikers :-
Now this one is a bit of a step into the unknown. I wanted to include Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury after his success at the Asian Under-19 Championship Finals in Japan. But he strained his ankle ligaments playing for French club Vannes Olympique, a blow after recently getting into the side and notching his first goal for the club where he is hoping to earn a new deal. His team mate Gautam Roy is also ruled out with a broken leg, and there are fears for his immediate future with his contract also up at the end of the season, and he isn't scheduled to return to training till August. With East Bengal's 22 year old striker Ashish Morje also out, who is on a goal a game at Under-21 level, and better yet for his club, we are missing some serious striker talent.

But enough about who isn't included. Those who are along for this tie are 23 year old Naushad Ghosh of Pune FC, who has a goal in his single Under-21 cap, and a goal a game at domestic level this season for his club too, well on course for his best ever season. 21 year old Asif Ali has one Senior Cap, not awarded by me, and is in good form for Mohammedan, just a single goal short of double figures for the season. He's the shortest of the selected strikers at 5'7, but makes up for that with an impressive turn of pace. Air India's twenty one year old forward Steven Chakraborty brings the height that Ali is missing, and is only a goal behind him in domestic football as well, but he isn't very experienced at International level, with just one cap at Under-21 level. The final player selected is a wild card in the form of 17 year old on loan Goan SC striker Mohammed Islam. He is one of the most highly regarded young players in the country, and he'll be hoping to return to Mohun Bagan at the end of his first season in Senior football, ready to challenge for a place in their side.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

Wednesday 8th April 2015
Just twenty four hours after the Under-23 squad is named, and we suffer an injury blow with one of our better players. 19 year old Belgium based centre back Francisco Reja is out for a month, suffering a back strain during a weights session that rules him out of both legs of the First Round Qualifier with Palestine. I hope it doesn't come back to bite me, but I'd rather he miss this tie, than a more crucial one later on. But it means 50% of our first choice centre back pairing are unavailable. I am able to call up a replacement, and the man selected is 19 year old Dinesh Fernandes of Dempo, capped three times at Under-21 level, and capable of playing as a defensive or centre midfielder as well as at centre back.

Friday 10th April
The First Leg of our Olympic Qualifier First Round tie is tomorrow, and we are at home, with New Delhi hosting before the return leg in a weeks time at the Gaza International Stadium. With a strong squad selected, I'm hoping that we can put in a convincing display, and if we manage to reflect that in the scoreline as well, it could allow me to then give some playing time to younger or less experienced squad members for the Second Leg.

So what kind of threat do Palestine pose to our hopes of progression? Well, you never want to assume it's going to be easy, but they don't have a lot to work with to be fair, and even if I were neutral, the money would be on an India win with a fair degree of comfort. There are three players of note to pick out, the first being Free Agent left winger and twice capped at Senior level, Salah Awad. The 18 year old has recently been released by domestic club side, Hilal Al-Quds. Up front, they have a pair of young strikers who are very capable of finding the net. Ali Al-Ouinani is a 21 year old with nine caps and two goals at the Under-21 level, and plays for domestic club, Al-Khadr. They have just been promoted to the top tier Premier Division, and he is their top scorer. Finally, there is the new young hope of Palestinian football, Swedish born and raised, but now three times capped Per-Olof Karlsson. He was lured back to the country of his heritage by the offer of domestic First Team and Senior International football, and he jumped at the chance, signing for Salwan Al-Quds. The 6'3 teenager has played over fifty times in the League now, and has scored nine times so far.

Saturday 11th April

2016 Olympic Qualifiers, Asian Zone, First Round, First Leg
Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi, India
India Under-23's v Palestine Under-23's
Attendance :-
214. Weather :- Breezy, 33c.

A 35,000 capacity stadium would appear to have been a little ambitious, while hosting the match in the mid-afternoon heat wasn't a very well put together plan either. I'm glad I picked a strong side to try and get the job done, with only the two strikers without Senior International caps to their name. Mohammed Hossain starts in goal, with a very strong back four, Gumpe Singh paired with Jose Paul at centre back. Yadwinder Khan captains the side in midfield, where he is joined by Amit Singh, with Joseph Lal and Sanjay Singh on the wings, and Naushad Ghosh and Steven Chakraborty up front.

We suffer a very early setback, with keeper Mohammed Hossain pulling up after taking a 5th minute goal kick, and he is taken off as a precaution. Luckily, we have a very able replacement on the bench in the form of teenage keeper Seby Kumar. Moments later the keeper sent the ball up the park, which reached his opposite number Mohammed Ashtiani, who didn't realise that Ali Awad was leaving it to him, the keeper spilling the ball, but no one was around to take advantage for us. Palestine were playing a clever game, constantly changing their tactics from attacking and defensive, as they looked to try and catch us out. It didn't work though, Steven Chakraborty forcing a corner when he pressured their defence high up the park, and Paramjit Kumar's delivery to the near post caused an issue for skipper Salah Awad, and his near post header spun off his head and into the top corner of his own net, and we were in front. Three minutes later we tore through their defence, the Singh's very much involved, Gumpe dropping it from centre back into the left wing for Sanjay, who found Amit in space in midfield. He found Chakraborty on the edge of the box, and he spun away from his marker, and curled a shot past Ashtiani and into the far corner to double our lead. A third nearly soon followed through the other striker, Naushad Ghosh sent Kumar's free kick goalwards, only to see it blocked on the line and then hacked clear. We continued to create chances, Chakraborty had one saved by the keepers legs, while Joseph Lal's effort was punched clear when it was much easier to catch it. Yadwinder Khan then just missed the top corner with a free kick. The skipper then hit the post with a low 20 yard shot after a quick counter attack from a Palestine corner. He had one last try of the half when Naushad Ghosh picked him out with a cut back, but Ashtiani saved that one with his legs. Palestine did get forward in injury time, and Per-Olof Karlsson got inside Vinod Ghosh to get some room in the penalty box, but he sent his shot high and wide of the near post.

So we were well in control at the break, and with better finishing, we could have had the tie sewn up. Palestine made a pair of changes at half time, but Chakraborty missed a chance to put them even further behind, another shot on the turn, but this one was over the bar. Lal had a volley blocked shortly after, before Khan tried his luck again from a free kick, this one just not quite dipping enough. A corner from Lal was only partially cleared, and it was headed right back in to Vinod Ghosh, who had a strike at goal that was also blocked. But we soon found another way through, Gumpe Singh sending a volley up the park, and sub Fahad Abdullah wasn't quick enough on the turn to keep up with Chakraborty, who showed composure to slide his shot under Ashtiani's dive and into the bottom corner, extending our lead out to 3-0. All credit to Palestine, they refused to throw the towel in, nearly sneaking one back when a throw in to our box was flicked on by Karlsson, and it would have looped into the top corner, but for Seby Kumar tipping it over the bar. They found their way through next time though, and with the best goal of the match as well, Ali Al-Ouinani doing well to keep the ball in play, and then finding substitute Reza Jaber with a low centre to the edge of the box, and he smashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner to reduce the arrears for the visitors. We made a double change, Jose Paul and Amit Singh coming off, Francisco Bhowmick and Dinesh Fernandes on in their place. The latter lifted a free kick into the box five minutes after coming on, and an attempt to head it back to the keeper fell short, Naushad Ghosh latching onto it, but again Ashtiani saved it with his legs. He then had two further attempts at goal blocked before they even got through to the keeper. But with two minutes left to play, we forced our way through again, Bhowmick breaking up play and getting the ball to Khan, and he slid it into the box for Lal, the winger using his weaker left foot to send a curler around the keepers dive and into the top corner, giving us some more breathing room for our trip to Gaza next weekend.

India Under-23's (2) 4 - Salah Awad (16 og), Steven Chakraborty (19,69), Joseph Lal (88)
Palestine Under-23's (0) 1 - Reza Jaber (73)
Mohammed Hossain (inj - Seby Kumar 5); Vinod Ghosh, Jose Paul (Francisco Bhowmick 74), Gumpe Singh, Paramjit Kumar; Amit Singh (Dinesh Fernandes 74), Yadwinder Khan ©; Joseph Lal, Sanjay Singh; Naushad Ghosh, Steven Chakraborty.

Unused Substitutes :- Azadur Barman, Balpreet Singh, Gouranga Barman, Asif Ali.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 55% - 45%. Man of the Match :- Steven Chakraborty (India Under-23's).

I couldn't be anything other than happy with that outcome. We had done a professional job, and the chances of Palestine beating us by three or four goals in Gaza next Saturday were considered to be minimal. Across the continent, many of the other ties lay in the balance, but Brunei and Singapore, with away wins in Afghanistan and Malaysia respectively looked pretty good bets to go through, as did Jordan with a 3-0 win at home to Nepal, and Thailand with a 2-0 win away to Taiwan.

Mohammed Hossain was fine, no damage that would keep him out of action for any period of time. Now decisions would need to be made on just how strong a lineup we went with for the Second Leg.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Wednesday 15th April 2015
The FIFA World Rankings are released today, and after last month gaining a place, this month we hand that place right back, dropping down to 127th spot, Namibia the nation who have moved past us after an eleven place climb pushed them up into 120th spot.

Friday 17th April
Bad news today, as we lose a member of our squad at a point where it's too late to call up a replacement. It's a nasty injury as well for 22 year old twice Senior capped left back Azadur Barman, as the Air India defender has suffered a broken lower leg in training, which will keep him out for anything up to seven months, giving him little chance of playing any further competitive football in 2015. We can only hope, for the sake of both ourselves and the lad, that he comes back fit and well, and the injury doesn't impact a promising career, that has already seen him play almost 125 Senior League matches.

Saturday 18th April

2016 Olympic Qualifiers, Asian Zone, First Round, Second Leg
Gaza International Stadium, Gaza, Palestine
Palestine Under-23's v India Under-23's - (India Under-23's lead 4-1 on aggregate)
Attendance :-
189. Weather :- Dry, 22c.

Beautiful probably isn't the word, but unique is the best way to describe the surroundings in the 10,000 capacity Gaza International Stadium, which serves as the default National Stadium in this troubled part of the world. With us being in a fairly comfortable position following the First Leg, I have made five changes to the starting lineup for the return fixture. Shankar Firoze takes over in goal, while Jose Paul is rested from the back four, with Hong Kong based Francisco Bhowmick starting in his place. There is also a new partner in midfield for Amit Singh, with Balpreet Singh replacing skipper for the first game Yadwinder Khan, also taking the armband as well today. Alan Cervinski is fit to start today, and he replaces Sanjay Singh on the left wing, while up front, Steven Chakraborty, scorer of a brace from the First Leg, is joined this time by Asif Ali, who replaces Naushad Ghosh. On the bench, Minguel Chetri is included after Bhowmick stepped into the side, Anwar replaces Dinesh Fernandes, and Mohammed Islam provides the striker cover.

Back at home and in their own surroundings, Palestine looked capable of being more of a threat in the early stages, Tony Sherifi heading the ball down for Per-Olof Karlsson, the striker getting into the box, but his shot was over the bar. Midway through the half, Ali Al-Ouinani played the ball back to his full back Zein Hamidi, and he sent a cross to the edge of the box, where Sherifi's first touch didn't quite kill the ball, and allowed two defenders to close him down before he got a shot away. At the other end, as Palestine left gaps, Joseph Lal made a good run down the right, and then cut the ball back to the edge of the box, Balpreet Singh walking on to it, and sending a driven shot just over the cross bar. Moments later, Lal whipped in a corner, Francisco Bhowmick meeting it with a good header, but it flashed just wide of the near post. Paramjit Kumar was substituted after taking a knock, with Sanjay Singh coming on to replace him at left back. Gumpe Singh collected a yellow card on the half hour mark for a fairly crude bodycheck on Karlsson, but Faisal Al-Harbi got his free kick effort all wrong. Balpreet Singh got much closer with his effort five minutes later, curling his shot around the defensive wall, but just missing the top corner he was targeting. Before the break, Sanjay Singh linked well with Alan Cervinski down the left, and the Australia based winger sent the ball into the box for Asif Ali, his shot blocked well by keeper Mohammed Ashtiani. Right after that, the keeper failed to hold on to a free kick into the box from Amit Singh, the quick response of his defence ensured he wasn't punished. 

We would lose Asif Ali to injury at the break, taken off as a precaution after a knock in first half injury time, with young striker Mohammed Islam coming on in his place. Moments after the restart, we would wish we had waited a little longer, as Steven Chakraborty went down with a more serious knock, and we would be forced to use our third and final change. Without another striker on the bench, Yadwinder Khan came on, and would play out of position rather than us changing system. Khan immediately sprayed the ball from the centre circle and into the left wing, where Cervinski latched onto it, and then picked out Balpreet Singh, who this time got well under the ball, a very poor effort on goal. Mohammed Islam showed a glimpse of the talent that has made him one of the best young prospects in the country, as he raced onto a diagonal long pass from Vinod Ghosh, and then cruised past two defenders and into the box, only to fire his shot right at Ashtiani as he came off the line to narrow the angle. Finally, with just fifteen minutes left to play, we found a way through to put the tie to bed. Ghosh launched a throw in from near the corner flag on the right into the box, and defenders Mohammed Dinmohammadi and Ali Al-Marzooqi made a fatal mistake, letting the ball bounce, and Islam ghosted between them, and flicked a header past Ashtiani to put us in front on the night. Palestine were now left looking for consolations at best, and missed a great chance for one with ten minutes to play, two subs linking as Abdullah Al-Amoudi crossed from the right, picking out Fahad Heydari, who sent his header wide from eight yards out. They made one last bid to get a crowd pleasing goal on the board, Heydari squaring the ball across the edge of the box, but Ali Asghar Aseeri sent his 20 yard shot well over the bar. Balpreet Singh had a very late chance to add another for us, but his shot was deflected wide. Not that it mattered, we were already comfortably through.

Palestine Under-23's (0) 0
India Under-23's (0) 1
-
Mohammed Islam (75)
(India Under-23's win 5-1 on aggregate)
Shankar Firoze; Vinod Ghosh, Francisco Bhowmick, Gumpe Singh, Paramjit Kumar (inj - Sanjay Singh 24); Amit Singh, Balpreet Singh ©; Joseph Lal, Alan Cervinski; Asif Ali (inj - Mohammed Islam 45), Steven Chakraborty (inj - Yadwinder Khan 47).

Unused Substitutes :- Minguel Chetri, Seby Kumar (GK), Anwar, Gouranga Barman.
Bookings :- Gumpe Singh 30
Possession :- 43% - 57%. Man of the Match :- Vinod Ghosh (India Under-23's).

Neither of the injuries to either Steven Chakraborty or Paramjit Kumar are too serious, at least compared to the injury to Azadur Barman yesterday. Striker Chakraborty suffered bruised ribs, which should keep him out for no longer than two weeks. Kumar's injury is a thigh strain, but is more on the minor side of the scale, and he will be about for around three weeks.

There was little to be found in the way of surprises in this First Round of Olympic Qualifying. There was a great result today for Nepal, as they drew 1-1 against Jordan, but they are still out after losing the First Leg away. Kyrgyzstan turned the tie around after drawing their away First Leg against North Korea, but won the return to go through. Lebanon needed penalties to get past Myanmar, while Hong Kong beat the Philippines, and Kuwait knocked out Tajikistan. The only result that would likely qualify as a surprise, Turkmenistan lost their First Leg 2-1 away to Qatar, but then won the return 2-0 to advance.

So we move into the Second Round. It's the same number of nations, but those knocked out are now replaced by the twelve seeded nations, with the winners to advance to the Group Stage that is the Third Round. The draw is made pretty quickly, and it isn't too bad, as we are paired with the eighth highest ranked nation in the Continent, as our opponents will be Uzbekistan. A sterner test of course, but I still give us a chance of pulling off a shock. We met in the Group Stage last time, drawing 1-1 in India, but then losing heavily in the return. New Delhi will host the First Leg on Wednesday 9th September, with the Second Leg scheduled for a week later the Markaziy Stadium, a 22,000 capacity ground in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan.

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Wednesday 13th May 2015
We drop one more spot this month in the FIFA World Rankings, meaning we go into our double header of games on a short tour of South East Asia sat in 128th spot, Niger the nation who have moved above us this month. 

Friday 29th May 
This weekend I will pick an India Senior Squad for the seventh time, and I have one major issue, 23 year old East Bengal striker Sandip Kumar is out for the rest of the year after damaging his cruciate ligament playing for his club. The three times capped young lad with 18 goals in domestic football for his club this season will certainly be a miss.

Sunday 31st May
                                                                                                                                           **SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT**
                                                                        India Senior Squad for International Friendlies vs Chinese Taipei - A (6/6/2015) & Vietnam - A (10/6/2015)

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

| Arindam Bhattacharya      | GK          | Mahindra Utd              | 6'1"    | 29      | £3K     |  2  |   0  |
| Mohammed Hossain          | GK          | JCT                       | 6'1"    | 22      | £1K     |  3  |   0  |
| Subrata Pal               | GK          | East Bengal               | 6'0"    | 28      | £20K    | 10  |   0  |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Vinod Ghosh               | D RC        | Dempo                     | 5'7"    | 22      | £7K     |  1  |   0  |
| Francis Xavier Dias       | D L         | Viva Kerala               | 5'7"    | 21      | £1K     |  0  |   0  |
| Paramjit Kumar            | D L         | Mohun Bagan               | 5'7"    | 21      | £1K     |  7  |   0  |
| Adil Kundu                | D C         | Mohun Bagan               | 5'8"    | 23      | £14K    |  3  |   0  |
| Francisco Bhowmick        | D C         | Fire Services (HKG)       | 5'10"   | 19      | -       |  3  |   0  |
| Gumpe Singh               | D C         | East Bengal               | 5'7"    | 23      | £4K     |  1  |   0  |
| Jose Paul                 | D C         | WIT-Georgia Tbilisi (GEO) | 5'9"    | 23      | £12K    |  6  |   1  |
| Manju Nanjangud Shivananju| D C         | Churchill Bros            | 6'1"    | 28      | £2K     | 11  |   1  |
| Ajay Bailleux             | D/WB R      | Mohammedan                | 5'10"   | 31      | £1K     | 17  |   0  |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Sanjay Singh              | D LC, M L   | Indian Telephone SC       | 5'7"    | 16      | -       |  2  |   0  |
| Amit Singh                | DM, M C     | FC Nantes (FRA)           | 5'10"   | 17      | £45K    |  4  |   0  |
| Kuldip Kumar              | M C         | Mahindra Utd              | 5'8"    | 22      | £6K     |  1  |   0  |
| Yadwinder Khan            | M C         | Bengal Mumbai FC          | 5'8"    | 23      | £2K     |  5  |   0  |
| Raheem Alibhaï            | AM R        | Olympic Charleroi (BEL)   | 5'7"    | 30      | £8K     |  5  |   1  |
| Steven Dias               | AM R        | Mohun Bagan               | 5'10"   | 31      | £1K     |  5  |   0  |
| Joseph Pereira            | AM L        | Pune FC                   | 5'6"    | 32      | £1K     |  4  |   0  |
| Sabri Gharbi              | AM C        | Mohammedan                | 5'7"    | 27      | £5K     | 10  |   1  |
| Aman Verma                | AM/F C      | Bury (ENG)                | 5'11"   | 27      | £24K    |  3  |   1  |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Ashish Morje              | ST          | East Bengal               | 5'8"    | 22      | £20K    |  0  |   0  |
| Chidi Edeh                | ST          | Mahindra Utd              | 5'11"   | 28      | £8K     |  9  |   3  |
| Edu                       | ST          | Mohun Bagan               | 6'1"    | 32      | £7K     |  6  |   2  |
| Ranty Martins             | ST          | Al-Nejmeh (LIB)           | 6'1"    | 28      | £10K    |  9  |   8  |
| Sunil Chetri              | ST          | AS Rodos (GRE)            | 5'5"    | 30      | £45K    | 26  |  16  |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No huge surprises today as I select the 26 man squad that will travel to South East Asia for a quick two match Tour. We'll start next Saturday in what is termed in the game as Chinese Taipei, it's formal name according to the Chinese, but known more widely around the World as Taiwan (we don't do politics here, so we'll stick with the game version), for a Friendly in Taipei City's venue, the Chungshan Soccer Stadium. That is then followed by a move across the South China Sea to Vietnam, where we will face our hosts at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, for what is likely to be a very close match between two nations separated by less than five spots in the current FIFA World Rankings. So lets see who is going to be making the trip.....

Goalkeepers
No surprises here, as we retain the same three keepers for the third squad in succession, in what is easily the most stable part of our Senior Squad right now. But while things are stable in terms of the squad, things could yet shake up at club level for the keepers. Subrata Pal continues to rule the roost at East Bengal as they are crowned Champions again, their second successive Title. But he might face a little more competition next season, 23 year old Kuldip Basheer has had a really impressive season at JCT, coming close to a call up himself, and it's rumoured that East Bengal are looking to bring in the former Under-21 International this summer. Despite relegation from the National Football League this season with Mahindra United, there have been plenty of plaudits for Arindam Bhattacharya, many believing that United's fate would have been sealed much earlier had it not been for the performances of the 29 year old keeper. So one place remaining, and it goes once again to Mohammed Hossain, the other JCT keeper who returns to the Senior Squad after playing only five minutes for the Under-23's in New Dehli before suffering an injury. Nothing wrong with his form though, and arguably, the 22 year old is the form guy of the trio. But all will continue to look over their shoulders at the competition queuing up behind them, led by Seby Kumar and Shankar Firoze of Dempo and Vasco who were both part of the last Under-23 squad. There is also the continued attempts to talk Belgium based keeper Ganesh Aerts to turn out for us, and don't forget about one of the first new caps I awarded when I took the job. Jasbir Singh's time in England may be set to come to an end, with no sign of a contract extension being offered by Woking. But there is rumoured to be strong interest in him from Australia, with Hyundai A-League club Newcastle Jets said to be considering an offer to the 24 year old.

Defenders
Let's start at right back, because, well, it's pretty straightforward. Despite now being 31 years old and club hopping, Ajay Bailleux continues to make an impact everywhere he goes. Admittedly, that impact is more defensive than going forward these days, as he has contributed only one assist for Mohammedan as they finish a superb fourth place in the NFL. He is backed up this time around by Vinod Ghosh, a debutant last time out from the bench against Kyrgyzstan, and an excellent first season with Dempo as they secured third place in the League. Rumours are swirling that Mohun Bagan would like to buy him back, two years after they sold him to SC Goa for a £1,000, the buying team losing their outlay a year later when they moved him on for Free. He'll surely cost more than £1,000 this time. This is a position that could do with a shot in the arm when the next batch of players come through this summer, Joseph Lal and Amar Thakur's form has tailed off at East Bengal and Air India respectively, the latter potentially on the move after the club named after the airline sponsors were relegated.

We have lost one of our regulars in the left back role, with Azadur Barman ruled out for the rest of the year with a broken leg. He's another member of the Air India squad that they spent heavily to get, and may have to offload now they have lost their place in the top level of domestic football. Another former player for Air India has established himself as the number one left back in the squad, but things are all change for Paramjit Kumar as well now, as he has taken the leap and left Mohun Bagan, signing a one year deal with Vasco. He has a new colleague along for this Tour, the first of a pair of potential debutants in the form of 21 year old Francis Xavier Dias, who has just completed an excellent season for Viva Kerala in the second tier, his second season being a first choice at club level. He's not new to the International stage, with four caps at Under-21 level, and he could well challenge Barman for a regular spot in the Senior Squad. He has leapt in front of the likes of Sheikh Singh, who has just left Pune for Goa, and Rakesh Pereira, who was included last time out but didn't get a debut cap, and has also just moved clubs, leaving United SC for Bengal Mumbai. Five times capped East Bengal man Dulal Bhattacharya will need to improve considerably if he is going to compete with those lads and add to his cap haul.

Into the middle of the back four, and lets address the absence of Belgium based 19 year old Francisco Reja, with the twice capped Germinal Beerschot lad left out this time for no other reason than tiredness and a lack of fitness after a long and injury impacted season. A flight across the World and back will do him no favours, so he is rested this time. That means this Tour now turns into an opportunity for centre backs to audition for roles with, and without Jose Paul, the 23 year old centre back is still one of our most important players, and is still in excellent form in Georgia with his Tbilisi based club. The likes of Gumpe Singh and Adil Kundu are waiting for their chance to stake their claim, while the fine form of Francisco Bhowmick with his Hong Kong based club keeps him involved. Narrowly missing out are Rikki Bains of Havant & Waterlooville and Minguel Chetri, who has just moved to East Bengal after an improved season with SC Goa. Preferred instead is the reliability and experience of Manju Nanjangud Shivananju, who has had another fine season, his first with Churchill Brothers after leaving East Bengal.

Midfielders/Wingers
We start with surprising and disappointing news, for us anyway. I doubt Sheikh Thakur will see it that way, as the 17 year old Danish based centre midfielder who plays for Viborg is called up into the Denmark Under-19 squad for the first time ahead of their upcoming double header trip to face the Czech Republic and the Republic of Ireland. In his second season as a professional, he has forced his way into the Viborg First Team setup with half a dozen appearances, albeit mostly from the bench, but impressive nonetheless in a very strong and cosmopolitan squad in Denmark's top tier. Not good for us though, as our chances of him ever being convinced to turn out at Senior level for India in the future are now probably zero.

We will have to put that disappointment behind us, and concentrate on the players that we do have available. Amit Singh is the same age, and has played for FC Nantes Reserve side once this season, and will likely pick up his fifth and maybe sixth cap at International level. A loan spell would do Amit the world of good I'm sure. Joining him in keeping their place is 23 year old Yadwinder Khan, the Bengal Mumbai playmaker has kept his average rating very high this season, but his production was well down on last season at domestic level. He has a new team mate too, as Sabri Gharbi has now made the move from Mohammedan to Bengal Mumbai, and if these two can strike up a partnership at domestic level, it could be huge for the Senior International side too.

So they remain in the squad, but dropping out this time are two of the regulars since I've been here. Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep has gradually seen his form tail off at Mohun Bagan during that time span, and the now 32 year old is left out on this occasion. The door is not closed by any means, but I'm not going to learn any more about him on this Tour. Also left out is Mehrajuddin Wadoo, and for the Bengal Mumbai defensive midfielder, I offer no such promises of the likelihood of him reappearing in the India Senior Squad down the line. In the past he has brought production along with his defensive skills, but now he is at a club where is expected to just win the ball and move it on, and we have younger players around who can do that just fine. The duos places go firstly to Kuldip Kumar, the Mahindra United midfielder with one cap is back in action after a long layoff with a torn calf muscle. The game time would certainly do him good. Also back in the squad is Bury's attacking midfielder Aman Verma. He was a huge part of the success of his club this season, contributing 8 goals as Bury finished second, and won the Playoffs to return to the Football League.

On the right wing, 30 year old Belgium based Raheem Alibhaï continues to be first choice, the Captain of the Senior Squad putting in an upturn in domestic form over the latter weeks of the season with Olympic Charleroi as they secured an 8th placed finish in the Second League. His form on the International stage is fantastic though, and his place is cemented further by the lack of an understudy who can really challenge him for his spot. Joseph Lal has had a fairly poor season at East Bengal, though he is primarily a left back anyway, while William Jidayi doesn't appear to have done himself too many favours at Gela in Italy, and they don't appear willing to offer him a new deal. So it's 31 year old Steven Dias who is back in the frame, he has just had his most productive season in three years with Mohun Bagan, then promptly ended his second spell with the club to move to Mumbai FC. 25 year old Sanju Pradhan of Air India may well have been called up after earning a move with a great season at FC Kochin, but a broken leg ended his season early.

Across to the left flank, where things were no better. 32 year old Jospeh Pereira of Pune FC has been the man who has become first choice for us, but he is now formerly of Pune FC. He left them two years ago to join FC Kochin, and after a superb season that propelled him into the International reckoning, he had returned for a second spell at Pune. But his domestic form has tailed off badly, and just days after the squad was selected, Pereira and his employees had parted ways. The good news? Well, there are potential suitors. The not so good news? They are not exactly top end clubs in the form of Railway FC and Peerless Sports Club. I can't be a hypocrite about it though, young Sanjay Singh had been considered good enough, and he is also playing at a poor level with Indian Telephone Industries Sports Club, and he has fitted in very nicely in his two caps so far, and had a very good domestic season too. It's just as well too, as options are starting to reduce. The promising but inconsistent Australian based youngster Alan Cervinski is another who needs to find a new club. The 21 year old who also has two caps, had a poor second campaign with Toowoomba Raiders, and they have cut him loose. The only interested party right now are the University of Queensland, who will hopefully take a chance on him. Clifford Miranda is now 32, Reisangmi Vasum has had a poor campaign, and both have just left NFL clubs to join FC Kochin. We have a plethora of young players in this position, and we need a few of them to step up now. The favourite is probably Santosh Hakkim, a 19 year old with half a dozen caps at Under-21 who has just left East Bengal for Churchill Brothers in the hope of regular First Team football.

Strikers
Probably the deepest part of the National Pool, and for this short Tour, I include an extra striker, selecting five instead of four in this squad. That didn't make it any easier to make the selection, though several players unavailable did help. Sandip Kumar is out for the rest of the calendar year with damaged cruciate ligaments, a cruel blow for the 23 year old East Bengal striker who had been in fine form this season, finding the net 18 times in 27 competitive club games. Once capped France based youngster Gautam Roy is also out, the Vannes Olympique striker is still recovering from the broken leg that ended his season early when he had made his First Team debut for the club he joined as a 15 year old. Also not considered is his club team mate, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury, the 22 year old 6'4 striker has been doing well at the club that gave him a shot, appearing eight times, half from the bench, scoring twice and laying on another, but not getting enough regular football to build up his fitness. Both are out of contract at the end of next month with Vannes, and I'm hoping both get new deals.

The remaining three strikers from the last squad are included, Sunil Chetri has had a great season in Greece with an average of almost a goal every game for AS Rodos. The form at domestic level for Ranty Martins in Lebanon has tailed off a little, but eight goals from nine caps at International level from the 28 year old African born striker speaks for itself. Edu also keeps his space in the squad, the Brazilian born Mohun Bagan striker has been his usual lethal self in front of goal at domestic level this season, hitting better than a goal every other game in the League. Those rumours of a move to Europe at long last are back again, Desportiva de Fafe have just been relegated from the second tier Liga Vitalis in Portugal, but believe the 32 year old can fire the goals to earn them an instant return next season, and are considering a bid.

Two places remain, and the first goes to another African born forward, as Mahindra United's striker Chidi Edeh returns to the Senior Squad for the first time since October 2013 after missing out through lack of form and then injury. He managed nine League appearances for United on his return from a broken foot, and found the net four times, but was unable to save them from relegation. One spot remaining, and plenty of talent to choose from. Naushad Ghosh has just earned a £40,000 move to East Bengal after a superb season for Pune FC, while Asif Ali has also been in fine form for Mohammedan after his big money move from Mumbai. But they are beaten to the spot by a second potential debutant, East Bengal's 22 year old ten times capped Under-21 International striker, Ashish Morje, who played 26 times in all competitions including Asian Confederation Cup matches, and scored 24 goals. They paid a club record fee of £120,000 for him two years ago now, and they have been rewarded with a striker who has blossomed into the real deal. As reward, he is likely to finally make his Senior International Debut during this short Tour of South East Asia.

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Friday 5th June 2015
We arrived in Chinese Taipei last night, and after a good training session on the pitch of the Taipei City match venue in Chungsang Soccer Stadium, we hold our pre match press conference. I was joined by Yadwinder Khan, who looked as surprised as everyone else when I told the room that after thinking long and hard about it, I had abandoned my plan to experiment with the lineup on a large scale for tomorrow's match, and that the 164th ranked Chinese Taipei side would be facing something at, or close to, a full strength India side. We had worked too long and too hard to risk a dent to our confidence and ranking now.

Many of the media wrote that I was being over-cautious, Chinese Taipei hadn't scored a goal at Senior International level since their 2-0 win here over Jordan in early October 2011 in a First Round Qualifier for the FIFA 2014 World Cup. They lost the Second Leg by three goals when they travelled to Amman three weeks later, and in the nine International matches they have played since, the only times they have avoided defeat were goalless draws away to Oman in 2013 and at home to Indonesia in 2014.

Their squad is low on quality, which isn't unexpected. It is selected entirely from four domestic clubs, and none of them are very good. Not a single one of their players has reached double figures for International Caps yet, though 23 year old striker Chiang Jicheng could hit that mark tomorrow. His team mate at Taipei Physical Education College, 22 year old centre defender Hiroaki Chang, is probably their best player. He is also the only player in their National Pool who would likely get anywhere near our squad in my opinion.

Saturday 6th June

International Friendly
Chungshan Soccer Stadium, Taipei City, Chinese Taipei
Chinese Taipei v India
Attendance :-
18,050. Weather :- Dry, 26c.

I'd said it would be an India side that would be set up to get a win, and I was good to my word. With Francisco Reja back in Belgium, it is Gumpe Singh who is selected to start at centre back with Jose Paul today, while Joseph Pereira starts on the left wing in place of Alan Cervinski, and Sunil Chetri is replaced by Chidi Edeh in an all-African born front line, both Edeh and Ranty Martins earning their tenth caps. They are the only three changes made from the starting lineup in February's win over Kyrgyzstan in New Delhi. There are three more changes on the bench, with Kuldip Kumar and Steven Dias returning to the matchday squad, while Francis Xavier Dias could make an International debut.

In our change colours of all orange, we were on the front foot right from the first whistle, with Amit Singh seeing plenty of ball in midfield early on. The youngster picked out skipper Raheem Alibhaï inside the first minute, and he stepped infield past several defenders, before trying a curling shot that was just too high. The early pressure from us continued against our hosts who had been forced back into a very defensive mindset, Sabri Gharbi had a drive blocked, while Chidi Edeh tried a speculative volley that was well off target. After a little lull in the action, Edeh showed his pace to keep the ball in down the left, and he fed Joseph Pereira, who in turn set up Amit Singh, his curling effort was off target. Finally, with just over half an hour gone, we forced our way through. Ajay Bailleux sent the ball down the line to pitt Alibhaï against Chen Wai Keung, who looked well and truly out of his depth against our winger. The Olympic Charleroi man again came back inside, and floated a cross towards the far post, home skipper Joshua Yeh failing to track the run of Ranty Martins, who met the ball with a thumping header inside the post to give us a well deserved lead. And just over ten minutes later, we sliced Chinese Taipei open again. It was a set piece this time, Pereira whipping in a free kick from the right wing, and Gumpe Singh caught the defence napping, sneaking in between two defenders and meeting the ball with a firm header to notch his first International goal. Two up at the break, and frankly, we were cruising.

With half a dozen changes available to use, I resisted the urge to make several of them at the break, instead only substituting Edeh, who was returning from a long injury lay off, replacing him with Edu up front. Early swift passing between Singh and Gharbi got the ball to powerful striker Martins, who went for a second by rolling his defender as he took the pass to feet and let fly with a shot that was just over the top. We continued to cause our hosts all kind of problems, Singh receiving the ball this time from Paramjit Kumar, and he again picked out Martins, the striker sending in a low shot this time that was just wide of the mark. And on the hour mark we found a way through again, another set piece, another Pereira delivery from the right, a corner this time, and and another header from a centre back, this time Jose Paul meeting it with a glancing effort that gave Hsu Ka Kin no chance in the Chinese Taipei goal. That was the green light to make some more changes, four of them at the same time, Kumar, Paul, Gharbi and Pereira off, and on came Francis Xavier Dias for a debut, Adil Kundu, Kuldip Kumar and Sanjay Singh. And still Chinese Taipei couldn't stop us adding to our tally, and with the best of the bunch. Bailleux was at least 25 yards out, and with the wall covering the path direct to goal. But he caught it perfectly, the ball arcing around the wall and inside the post, high into the net. It was a beautifully struck free kick to tick the score up to 4-0. The foot clearly came off the gas a little, substitute Tadashi Wang nipping in between a few defenders, but scuffing his shot wide. That was followed by a well caught volley from striker Takaaki Su, but it lacked power and caused Arindam Bhattacharya no problems at all. Bailleux shaped to hit another free kick shortly after, this time it was a decoy, as he slipped a short pass to Sanjay Singh, who's effort was off target. I made my final change, Steven Dias coming on for Alibhaï on the right. But he barely saw the ball, the game was over as a contest and spectacle, and the majority of the 18,000 crowd had long since filed out when the final whistle was blown.

Chinese Taipei (0) 0
India (2) 4
-
Ranty Martins (31), Gumpe Singh (42), Jose Paul (60), Ajay Bailleux (66)
Arindam Bhattacharya; Ajay Bailleux, Gumpe Singh, Jose Paul (Adil Kundu 61), Paramjit Kumar (Francis Xavier Dias 61); Amit Singh, Sabri Gharbi (Kuldip Kumar 61); Raheem Alibhaï ©, Joseph Pereira (Sanjay Singh 61); Chidi Edeh (Edu 45), Ranty Martins.

Unused Substitutes :- Vinod Ghosh, Subrata Pal (GK), Yadwinder Khan.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 43% - 57%. Man of the Match :- Ajay Bailleux (India).

That was a very comfortable outing, but remember we were below Chinese Taipei in the Rankings less than 2 years ago, and we have clawed our way right up the Rankings, and now have good options in most positions as the overall standard has improved hugely. That's why I resent the accusations of being over-cautious.

Ranty Martins marked his 10th cap by scoring his ninth International goal to get the ball rolling today, with first goals at International Level for both Gumpe Singh and Ajay Bailleux, who's superb free kick strike earned him the Man of the Match Award, ahead of the player who for me should have been given the accolade, Amit Singh.

I'd be surprised if any of the heavyweights in Asian football would be keen to be pitted against us when the time comes for competitive football to be played. Ajay Bailleux cannot wait to pull an India shirt on again as he hurtles towards the 20 cap mark. He won't have to wait too long, we leave Chinese Taipei tomorrow, headed across the South China Sea and to Vietnam for the next game.

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Tuesday 9th June 2015
We arrived in Vietnam late on Sunday night after the three hour flight from Taipei City into the capital city of Hanoi in the north of the nation. This bustling city of 8 million people will play host to our Wednesday evening match at the My Dinh Stadium, which holds up to 40,000 people and is named after the district where the National Stadium is housed.

Don't expect 40,000 in there for the match though, Vietnam's football team are not flavour of the month with the population of the South East Asian nation right now, after being thrashed 6-0 by China in Wuhan on the weekend. Apart from the fact that they were taken apart, it's the third straight defeat for Vietnam, after losing here to Bahrain earlier in the year, and a defeat in Baghdad to Iraq late last year. A Friendly win against the Maldives here isn't going to make amends after a poor Asian Cup Qualifying campaign, where they won just once from six Group matches, despite getting beatable opposition in the likes of Oman and Thailand.

Unlike our weekend opposition in Chinese Taipei, there are some members of the Vietnam squad who make their living in Europe, though two of the four are now the wrong side of 30. Minh Tuan Truong is a 33 year old right back with 21 caps, while Hiep Le Minh is now 30 years old, and can play on either wing, earning 15 caps so far. They have something else in common too, both being paid pretty nicely for playing non-League football in Holland, as Tuan Truong turns out for Marken, while Le Minh plays for Dijkse Boys. They are also able to call upon a potential up and coming talent in 18 year old centre back Le Chi Thanh, who is a second year professional, and made his International debut against Iraq, while he is yet to make his Senior club debut for his side, IFK Malmö, the new kids on the block of Swedish football who last year earned promotion to the top flight for the first time, and are not to be confused with their more illustrious and historic cross city rivals, Malmö FF. The final of the quartet is their star player, 27 year old attacking midfielder Ludovic Urai, born and raised in France, a youngster with Stade Malherbe Caen, he moved on to Sporting Toulon Var to get First Team football, did well, and now has just completed his third season with Corsica based AC Ajaccio, moving past the fifty League games mark with the club as he has helped them earn promotion to Ligue 2, then saw them get relegated right back down to the French National, and they have just finished mid-table.

They could yet see their number of players representing them in Europe increase in the coming weeks. 23 year old centre midfielder Louis Thieu of the Huda Hue club is being chased by Bulgarian Eastern 'B' club Svetkavitsa of Targovishte. Also being kept an eye on is 26 year old striker Nguyen Ngoc Anh, who currently plays for Tien Giang. He is a player of interest for recently relegated Portuguese Liga Vitalis side Desportiva de Fafe. Heard that club name recently? They are the club is said to be interested in our own Brazilian born striker Edu. Logic suggests it's likely to be one or the other if they make a move.

Wednesday 10th June

International Friendly
My Dinh Stadium, Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnam v India
Attendance :-
24,059. Weather :- Dry, 22c.

I was loathe to change things around too much from the win on the weekend, but I wanted to give some other players a run out as well. Mohammed Hossain replaced Arindam Bhattacharya in goal, while Adil Kundu replaced Gumpe Singh at centre back as the two switch places, and Yadwinder Khan steps into the starting lineup from the bench in place of Sabri Gharbi. Up front, Chidi Edeh is replace by Sunil Chetri, who has been asked to play no more than 45 minutes by Greek side AS Rodos, though I've no idea why when it's the summer break. There are two further changes on the bench, with Aman Verma replacing Kuldip Kumar, and Edu also left out for the chance to be given to Ashish Morje to potentially make his Senior International debut.

It was a much quieter opening spell of the game here in Hanoi than it had been in Taipei City, with the defences very much on top, cutting out through balls and making tackles to stop players moving into dangerous crossing areas. We did get a shot off in the tenth minute, Yadwinder Khan and Sunil Chetri linked up, and the latter found Ranty Martins, the striker getting a yard of space on centre back Thai Quoc Vuong, but his shot lacked power and conviction, and was easily dealt with by keeper Dau Anh Dung. At the other end of the park, a free kick on the right was struck by right footed Huynh Tien Dung, who passed up the chance to whip it through the goalmouth, instead he couldn't resist trying to beat Mohammed Hossain at his near post, but he couldn't keep his strike down. Just after the midway point of the first half, Jose Paul picked up a booking for a foul as he took one for the team when we looked likely to get caught on the counter attack after a poor corner delivery. Nearly getting caught didn't stop us from continuing to push forward though, Chetri again finding Martins, and the striker earned his space once more, but this time he screwed his shot across goal and wide. Then came the moment that had the potential to turn the match on its head. Neat passing through midfield got Vietnam into good position again, and Nguyen Ngoc Anh slipped a short pass into the right wing for Dong Thang Ha. The winger got by Paramjit Kumar, and Paul stepped across to cover, eager to make his challenge outside the box, lunging in and missing the ball but going through the winger. The referee from Australia gave himself a few seconds thinking time, but it was nailed on, and Paul received a second yellow, and his marching orders. I'd have to take a striker off, and with Chetri only being asked to play 45 minutes at most by his club, and Martins infinitely more capable of holding up the ball, it would be the Greek based striker who would be sacrificed. Gumpe Singh would come on in his place, as our ten remaining men lined up in an identical manner to our normal formation, but with only one striker. The free kick was in the same place as Tien Dung had struck an effort from earlier, but this time he sent it across the edge of the box and picked out Ludovic Urai, but his 20 yard effort was held easily by Hossain who saw it all the way. The home fans would have every right to expect to see their team on the front foot now, but we created a superb chance to go in front, thanks to a outrageous piece of individual skill from Khan, who dragged the ball back to avoid one tackle, and then knocked it through the legs of another defender, before sending a through ball into the box for Raheem Alibhaï, but the skipper sent his shot across the face of goal and wide, and a great chance to take the lead went begging. Goalless at the break, but potentially a tough second half to come with a one man disadvantage.

I made no further changes at the break, while Vietnam made two attacking changes. The first chance of the second half came our way though, the ball recycled back to the edge of the penalty box after an Alibhaï corner, and Ajay Bailleux walked onto a pass, sending in a shot that just cleared the cross bar over the far top corner. But Vietnam came right back at us, Dong Thanh Ha playing a lofted pass from deep inside our half and into the box, where Nguyen Tien Dung had stolen into the box unmarked from the left wing. He had enough time to bring the ball down as Hossain came out to narrow the angle, but he sent his shot over the cross bar. They created another great chance moments later, Tien Dung sending his pass to Urai, the man who Vietnam would want in this situation, but he sent his low shot the wrong side of the near post, and we survived again. Le Chi Thanh picked up a booking as we earned a free kick that would allow Bailleux a chance to test his free kick skills again. This time he didn't get it right though, his low driven effort was wide of the target. At the other end, Urai tried his luck from a free kick, getting much more flight, but the same result, wide of goal. When attacking substitute Pham Anh Tuan blasted a shot right at Hossain after getting into the box, our hosts decided to make more changes, three this time, all to their rearguard. I replied with a change of my own, Joseph Pereira taken off for Sanjay Singh on the left, the youngster offering more defensive skills than his older and more attack minded colleague. Vietnam were now applying pressure again, Louis Thieu was now on, and he sent a ball from the right wing all the way across the park to Tien Dung, who tried to beat Hossain at his near post, the keeper equal to that effort. Martins was seeing less and less of the ball up front for us, and when he got a view of goal, he was happy to take it, his shot midway through the second half was wide of the target though, from a less than optimal shooting position. Bailleux picked up a booking a while later, and with ten minutes remaining, I played my hand, making four changes. With one already sent off, I was taking no chances with Bailleux, and he joined Khan, Alibhaï and Martins in being substituted, Vinod Ghosh, Aman Verma, Steven Dias and debutant Ashish Morje coming on. Then moments later, Kumar sent a long ball down the left channel, and found Sanjay Singh. The youngster showed composure beyond his youthful years, holding the ball up as support arrived, then sending in a cross from the byline, the centre over the head of Ashish Morje and the defender marking him, but arriving perfectly onto the head of Aman Verma, who's finish was out of the keepers reach from close range, and high into the net! The frustration around the stadium was palpable, and Thai Quoc Vuong gave away a free kick born from that frustration, and earned a late booking. We managed the remaining time on the clock beautifully though, keeping Vietnam at arms length, preventing them from getting a clear shot at an equaliser, and earning us a smash and grab win to be proud of.

Vietnam (0) 0
India (0) 1
-
Aman Verma (84)
Mohammed Hossain; Ajay Bailleux (Vinod Ghosh 81), Jose Paul, Adil Kundu, Paramjit Kumar; Amit Singh, Yadwinder Khan (Aman Verma 81); Raheem Alibhaï © (Steven Dias 81), Joseph Pereira (Sanjay Singh 62); Sunil Chetri (Gumpe Singh 32), Ranty Martins (Ashish Morje 81).

Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Francis Xavier Dias, Sabri Gharbi.
Bookings :- Jose Paul 29, Ajay Bailleux 76 Sent Off :- Jose Paul 31
Possession :- 44% - 56%. Man of the Match :- Amit Singh (India).

If we needed a gut check performance that might stand us in good stead when we play competitive football, then we had just had it. And we passed by a few threads on the seat of our pants. I didn't award Jose Paul his first cap, but he has been one of the success stories of my time in this job so far. Today though, his decision making was found lacking, and he left us in a very difficult spot against a capable opposition.

Aman Verma capped what has been a superb season for him personally by netting the winner just moments after coming on, keeping his cool in front of goal when Ranty Martins and Raheem Alibhaï amongst others were unable to. Credit also to Sanjay Singh, brought on to help out defensively, but alert enough to set up that winning goal. He, and I, were vilified when he was first called up, as have been other younger players during my tenure. I'd like to think that the media in India will learn from this, but I somehow doubt it.

They did exactly the same when I called up Karan Mollah in my second squad selection, which took the heat off Amit Singh being included at the age of just 15. Singh won his sixth cap today, and while there isn't much mention of him in the match report, he ran the midfield beautifully, in particular when we were down a man. His game management was superb, and I still believe we have a future gem of a player, and maybe a legend of Indian football, there haven't been too many of them.

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