Pune: India’s under-23 football team suffered a blow with injury to first choice goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, but would still look to repeat its winning performance of four years ago, when they take on Myanmar in a tricky home-leg tie of the 2012 Olympic qualifiers here on Tuesday.
India had beaten Myanmar 4-1 in Kolkata in February 2007 before drawing 1-1 in Yangon to advance to the second round of 2008 Beijing Olympics qualifiers, and Desmond Bulpin’s boys have been drawn again against the same opponents.
India are fielding a young team, comprising mostly of players from new I-League side Indian Arrows, which was floated by the AIFF. They have been training here for the past seven days.
Besides Churchill Brothers goalkeeper Arindam, East Bengal’s Nirmal Chhetri and Robin Singh, Mohun Bagan’s N Mohanraj and CS Sabeeth of Viva Kerala are the players who are not part of Indian Arrows.
Bulpin admitted that Wednesday’s match would be a difficult one but felt his boys would enjoy the home advantage at the Balewadi Sports Complex.
“We have been preparing for a week. Most of the players are from Indian Arrows. I am expecting a difficult game tomorrow. However, we have home advantage and we are hoping to win the game,” Bulpin said at the pre-match press conference.
“We have some injury worries. Arindam Bhattacharya won’t be playing due to shoulder injury,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur youth team manager.
Myanmar are being coached by the well-travelled Milan Zivadinovic, the Serbian tactician who is no stranger to Asian football having coached the national teams of Iraq and Yemen and club sides in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.
“We have really good motivation against India. The team is ready to give its best shot in tomorrow’s game. We had good preparation for the match. I am really satisfied with the way the team is shaping up now,” he said.
“I believe we have a chance to win against India. We have no injury concern and all the players are available for the match,” said Zivadinovic.
The return-leg match will be played in Yangon on March 9.