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Where there's Bob, there's a will

football Updated: Sep 07, 2010 02:00 IST
Tomojit Basu
Tomojit Basu
Hindustan Times
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Coach Bob Houghton was the first to take the pitch here at Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, where his side is training for the home game against Bryan Robson's Thailand, who had won the tie in Bangkok by a single goal.

Reserved and focussed, Houghton enquired about the preparations for the Commonwealth Games before breaking into his thoughts regarding the first leg.

"They were very good, strong and kept attacking the goal repeatedly. It did get difficult to keep up and the injuries (to Bhaichung Bhutia, Renedy Singh and Samir Naik among others) for Wednesday's match will make it difficult this time around too," he said.

When asked by HT where his team fell short in comparison to their Southeast Asian counterparts, Houghton candidly said, "While defensively we were compact, we did not attack as well as them. The boys were also tired and jetlag is partly to blame. Home advantage is always great and losing on Sept 8 will be unacceptable."

The team seemed at ease and it was business as usual when the contingent stepped on to the pitch. The hour-long passing drills looked well-oiled and a practice match brought an end to the session.

"The infrastructure provided in India is not great. If it were, we would not have had to go Portugal to train. This practice pitch itself is too small, how can you expect the national side to train here?" Houghton complained.

With India being grouped against seasoned campaigners Australia and South Korea for the 2011 Asian Cup, Houghton felt the international fixtures for the team would be the best preparation although he stressed that playing African sides over Asian opposition would serve little purpose for the Indians.

"After this match, we head to Pune and will be playing Vietnam and Yemen in the middle of September. However, we are scheduled to play Gambia and Namibia later and I don't think those matches would aid us much because if we are to perform well in the Asian Cup, playing continental sides would be more pragmatic as we can gauge where we stand," explained the coach.

In regard to Bryan Robson, Houghton showered respect on his English colleague. "Robson is a legend and has had plenty of experience in the Premier and first-division leagues. He has groomed the side to adopt a more attacking style of long-ball play which is serving them well."

Echoing his manager's sentiment, poster boy Sunil Chhetri added, "Being the legend he was for Manchester United, Bryan Robson should take Thailand far. They were very good in the first leg but we came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. We need to finish the plays we make more effectively this time around."

The boys in blue look determined to make amends for the loss in the first game and, after months of training, a confident air is palpable.

Whether that assured disposition translates into a much-needed victory will hinge on Houghton and the team's ability to capitalise on the home support and the definite verve it will provide.