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Ready to defend honour

After four straight wins, Syria have already given the impression of leaving India undefeated, but if Sunday's training session was any indication, the hosts looked no less determined to defend their title in the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup final. Abhishek Hore reports.

football Updated: Aug 31, 2009 00:44 IST
Abhishek Hore

After four straight wins, Syria have already given the impression of leaving India undefeated, but if Sunday's training session was any indication, the hosts looked no less determined to defend their title in the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup final.

The journey may not have been as smooth as in 2007 when they beat the west Asians 1-0 in the title-clash, but barring their average outing against Lebanon in this edition's opener, it hasn't been that bad either.

Talk of the previous edition and one is reminded of NP Pradeep. But the man whose rasping left-footer paved the way for India's triumph on August 29, 2007, preferred not to say much on his performance this time around. This despite the crucial role he has been playing in the midfield.

“There were so many chances, but I couldn’t capitalise. So I am not satisfied,” Pradeep said. After a defeat in the opener, India did well before Syria put the brakes on them.

“They have got a very good side. But even our show has been better than the last time. It’s just that we are playing better teams this time and that’s why the competition has got tougher," Houghton said.

Set-pieces though remain a worry. “It's a problem but we have conceded just twice from set-pieces,” he said.

On Monday, Syria will not just be playing just 11 Indians but will also have to cope with the packed crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium. Houghton also felt that India “can beat anybody” — Asian countries here. The final will be India’s 25th match since 2007 and their record — 15 wins and 5 defeats.

“If they get at least 10 to 15 internationals a year, then only they can improve the rankings,” the Briton added.