Mumbai, Aug 7: Full backs Gouramangi Singh and Nirmal Chhetri today said that India's upcoming international friendly against Tajikistan would be a tough game as well as good preparation for next month's South Asian Football Federation Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.
“We played against them in 2008 in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup which we won (4-1 in New Delhi). But we all know they are higher ranked than us. We are going to play in their home and it's going to be very much difficult for us but we are looking forward to the challenge,” said Gouramangi.
India are currently ranked 146th in FIFA charts while the Tajiks are 40 places above them.
“I am looking forward to the game and am happy that the federation (AIFF) has arranged this friendly (to be played onAugust 14),” said the 27-year-old 6-feet tall central defender from Manipur.
“Yes, they are ranked higher than us but we are going with a positive mindset and I hope something good will come out,” said his 5-feet-10-inch tall, 22-year-old teammate Chhetri.
Chhetri, from Sikkim, is happy that the game is being held on FIFA-stipulated friendly date.
“After a long time we are getting to play a friendly match. It's good it's played on a FIFA date. It will be a tough match for us. We have not played for quite a long time,” said the stopper back.
“For getting our rankings higher we need to play more friendly matches on FIFA stipulated dates. When you play matches on FIFA dates it will help us go up higher in rankings. When you get to play against good teams you can get better,” he added.
Both felt the game was a good preparation for the SAFF Championships to be held in September in Kathmandu.
“This will certainly be helpful for preparing for the SAFF Cup in Kathmandu in September. It's part of the preparations for SAFF as they (Tajiks) are ranked higher than us,” said Gouramangi.
“I hope it will help us prepare well for the SAFF Cup,” Chhetri said.
Asked about defending champions India's chances in the September 1-11 SAFF Championship, Chhetri said he wanted to win it for the third time in a row.
“We are looking forward to playing in it and winning. I have already won two SAFF championships (2009 and 2011) and I hope God will help us win this too,” he said.
“Hopefully we will give 100 per cent and we are all looking forward to this tournament as there are not many later,” added Chhetri.
Gouramangi was more cautious, saying the teams knew each other's ways of play very well “In SAFF Cup all countries know us, we know them very well. We will take it one game at a time,” he said.
India have been placed in Group A with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Group B is made up of Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
Chhetri did not see any problems in adjusting to the higher altitude (4,600 feet) of Kathmandu.
“I don't think Kathmandu has so much of altitude. I don't think it will be a problem. We are used to playing at Gangtok, in Manipur as well as in Shillong. That experience will help us,” he said.
Talking about chief coach Wim Koevermans, Gouramangi said the Dutchman has brought in a lot to Indian football with his experience.
“He is an experienced coach and has brought in new information. He has been contributing a lot as coach. He has told us to not lose the ball so that the other team has to work hard to take it back,” said Gouramangi.