Injury concerns to two key players have forced Indian coach Bob Houghton to go with an additional midfielder as he left out goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya and striker Tarif Ahmed from the 23-member final squad for the second AFC Challenge Cup that begins in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
The 61-year-old took the decision after the team’s final training before Wednesday’s group opener against Afghanistan and said he had to compromise on the fifth striker to have cover for the injured Mahesh Gawli and Steven Dias.
Gawli and Dias are important cogs in Houghton’s formations but are sure to miss the opening game. Dias has been out of action since the second league game of the SAFF Cup in June due to an ankle injury while Gawli is yet to recover after a fall during training a few days ago. “They are not fit to play the first game. But they are also not so unfit that they wont be available through out the tournament,” said Houghton when asked why they were retained in the squad despite injuries.
The Englishman said he took the risk of retaining the duo since he had the luxury of picking a 23-member squad.
“I know it is a risk. But it’s worth taking the risk given the importance of these two players for the team.