Philippines, Afghanistan or Maldives: Who should be in Nehru Cup 2012 ?
The haze around the teams which are going to be part of the 2012 Nehru Cup football tournament to be hosted by Indian football federation AIFF is becoming clearer now.
It has been reliably learnt that the Nehru Cup 2012 will have 5 teams including India. Syria, Jordan and Kenya have confirmed their participation which leaves room for one last team.
This being a marquee event, AIFF will surely try to bring at least one top tier team from Africa to increase the attraction. The negotiation with Nigeria the Super Eagles failed. The Nigerian FA was willing to participate but due to the opposition of the Nigerian football team coach, they backed out.
At this moment, AIFF is negotiating with two other top-tier African teams. One of them, Cameroon, has given verbal agreement but AIFF is still awaiting their written commitment on the matter.
Cameroon are ranked 59th in FIFA Rankings. Just 2 rungs down at 61 is Senegal who are being seen as a backup in case Cameroon does not participate.
What if both these teams back out? AIFF have got interests from 3 other nations namely Afghanistan, Maldives and Philippines the Azkals.
The Azkals may have defeated us in the AFC Challenge Cup concluded recently in Nepal but they are not the team I would like to see in Nehru Cup. They are very inconsistent. The reason for this is that they depend heavily on foreigners who somehow have some Filipino connection. The home grown talent is negligible. One of the proofs is their recent debacle in the AFC U22 Championship Qualifiers. If the players manage to assemble from all over the world in the last moment, they will be a good team. But during the period of this tournament, it is highly unlikely that those players will be released by their respective clubs.
Verdict: Thumbs Down
Maldives have a great player in their team, namely Ashfaq Ali. Another exciting player is Thoriq, though he is semi-consistent. Although I would say yes for these to players, they are not exciting as a team. Their performance in SAFF Cup 2011 was poor to say the least. Recently they got thrashed by Turkmenistan whom we have made a habit of thrashing. So they would not be a competitive side. And aren’t we bored of them?
Verdict: May be
Afghanistan have improved vastly in a short time. From favourite whipping boys 2 years back to the finalists in SAFF Championship was a great leap. And even in the final, they showed that they were worthy of the place. It would have been exciting to see how the match would have turned up without the red-card to Afghanistan. Till 70 minutes they gave a tough time and then conceded a penalty. Afghan captain and goalkeeper lost his cool and pushed the referee. Then it was 4-0 for India in 20 minutes. Every Indian and Afghan football fan would want another game to be played between India and Afghanistan. And what better opportunity than Nehru Cup? The memories, the rivalries are all fresh in our mind. So let us play!
Verdict: Thumbs Up