Kathmandu: India football coach Wim Koevermans was in a confident mood ahead of their opening SAFF Championship match against arch rivals Pakistan at the Dasrath Stadium here Sunday.
Defending champions and six-time winners, India are in Group A along with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistana and after a not so successful year where they failed to quaifly for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, Koevermans will be under pressure to take his team to the end.
Not wanting to pay too much heed to the fact that Pakistan have come into the tournament with five Europe-based players including Zesh Rehman who has played for English Premier League club Fulham, Koevermans, said," Yeah, we know about them. But we are more concerned about ourselves. We are the team to beat and it's understandable everyone will play their heart out against us. But we know the potential of every opponent and rate them very highly."
"We have good players too. Sunil Chhetri, Mehtab Hossain, Gouramangi Singh, Rahim Nabi are our stars. Besides, we also have Francis Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Raju Gaikwad, Jewel Raja Shaikh and all others in our squad of 20. It's 11 vs 11 on the field," added goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
AIFF Player-of-the-Year Syed Rahim Nabi predicted their match against Pakistan would be "close".
"This Pakistan team is a very strong side. I've been a part of quite a few matches against Pakistan. Whatever we have been told by the coach, we need to implement it on the pitch. That's the most pertinent point,"
In the last two meetings against Pakistan Jeje Lalpekhula has scored five goals including a hat-trick. But it remains to be seen if Koevermans will use him that much with India captain Sunil Chhetri leading the line.
"If I play, I will give my best. We all will give our best. It doesn't matter who scores as long as it's a goal," said Jeje.
The kick-off at the Dasrath Stadium Sunday (Sep 1) is at 6.15pm (IST).