Chief coach Wim Koevermans believes hosting the AFC Challenge Cup in 2014 could be a shot in the arm for the Indian football team’s ambitions to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has submitted a bid to host the tournament, conducted for the lower-ranked sides from the continent. It also doubles up as the qualifying tournament for the Asian Cup. India had qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup after a gap of 24 years by the virtue of winning the Challenge Cup in 2008.
“Whenever you have crowd support, it helps. In the Nehru Cup final (in which India beat Cameroon via penalties), the fans turned up and acted as our twelfth man. But we need to take everything step by step. History of football suggests whenever teams play at home, they have a certain advantage,” Koevermans said.
India will take on Singapore in an international friendly on Tuesday, and Koevermans feels it’s important for the team to keep the winning run going. “Just like any other game, we want to win this one at any cost. The Nehru Cup triumph was encouraging indeed. But now, it’s all about the next step. We need to improve ourselves and we just can’t ever compromise on it,” the Dutchman said. “We need to be consistent. The most challenging part is to maintain a minimum level of quality and do well in the next game. We need to work hard to maintain a certain standard. We shouldn’t forget we are preparing for a bigger challenge.”
India haven’t been active on the international stage; Koevermans hopes the scenario will change. “It’s good to assemble but the players have their own club commitments. But we plan to play in each of the FIFA friendly dates. The boys need to stay in touch with international football as we aim to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup,” he said.