India's preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup continue tonight with a friendly against African side Namibia at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium. And I look forward to an interesting encounter between sides which have never faced each other in international competitions or friendlies.
While our coach Bob Houghton openly said at the pre-match press conference that he had little knowledge of his opponents, my friend Tim Saintfiet said he had heard a lot about Indian football from me and had also read a lot about it on our former website. I hope that won't be a disadvantage for us.
Bob is set to experiment a little tonight. Upfront FPAI "Indian Player of the Year" Mohammed Rafi will be getting a break and he will be replaced by Abhishek Yadav. Baichung Bhutia is still not fully fit, so could come on for up to 30 minutes. Steven Dias is out with a rib injury and Anthony Pereira will take his place on the right, while Clifford Miranda will replace Anthony on the left. Mehrajuddin Wadoo is set to get a start in central midfield replacing either Climax Lawrence or N.P. Pradeep. Bob doesn't want to change his back-line, but small niggles on Anwar and Surkumar Singh could force him to make changes with Deepak Mondal and N.S. Manju candidates to replace them.
Belgian Tom Saintfiet meanwhile informed the present media that Namibia had only brought players playing in the local Namibian league to India as the match was on a non-FIFA match date. Eight of the first team players are missing as they play in Europe, South Africa or Angola with Colin Benjamin at Hamburger SV in Germany the most prominent of those. And the preparations have been terrible to say the least as the players haven't played in their local league for the last four month's and no international friendly was organised ahead of their 2012 African Cup of Nations match against Gambia a few days ago, which they lost 1-3. But Tom hopes his boys will put-up a fight against an Indian team which he respects and thinks has made progress in the last few years under Bob Houghton.
Sometimes not knowing what could happen in a match makes it even more interesting, so I look forward to being live at the game at the Ambedkar Stadium.
The match is set to kick-off at 18.30 IST and it will be shown LIVE on Zee Sports!