Going by the overall performance of the Indian men's team in the Olympic Qualifiers underway here at the National Stadium, it gives the impression that the home team is on the threshold of erasing the bitter memories of not making it to the Beijing Olympics four year ago."We are a better side, now. We proved that in the months leading up to the qualification tournament," skipper Bharat Chhetri said with an air of confidence ahead of the final against France.
Indeed, good results are evident on the fitness front. It has resulted in better display of skills. In almost all the matches in the Olympic Qualifiers, the national squad, which used to struggle to sustain the tempo for 70 minutes, has shown enthusiasm in abundance.
In their last league match against Poland, India scored in the last few seconds of the game, indicating that the players are not slackening as compared to the past when the team conceded goals in the dying moments.
Apart from fitness, chief coach Michael Nobbs has also tactfully used substitution. He changes a forward every five minutes and defender every seven minutes.
During the duration they are on the field, the players are told to go all out. After that, they get a break for the same duration. This pattern is repeated for all of 70 minutes.
This has enabled the team to play a more attacking game that has often surprised the opponents.
On paper, France shouldn't be a hard nut to crack, but Nobbs isn't taking them lightly. “Like us, the French too are here to win an Olympic ticket. Hence, after analysing videos of their matches, we will chalk out a strategy for the final assault,” the Australian expert said of his game plan for Sunday's final.
On whether the defence was a worry, Nobbs said, “There have been some errors, but we will try to minimise them.”
Like Nobbs, the diehard Indian fans too would like the home team to play a flawless game and triumph in the final.