The wait is over. India will later today play their first international friendly match in over a year when they face hosts Thailand at the Yamaha Stadium in Bangkok. And this match marks the next stage of India's preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after the two month long preparatory camp in Portugal.
India first face Thailand in Bangkok today, then we host the Thais next Wednesday at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium and coach Bob Houghton will thereafter know a little more where his team stands four month's before the tournament. We now enter the phase were Team India will play a number of international friendlies to prepare itself for the tougher assignments ahead.
Thailand is ranked 104th in the latest FIFA world rankings, 34 places ahead of our own India. The Thais are coached by former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson and he has called-up a mixed squad of experienced and young talents to face India over the two matches. Thailand just about missed to quality for the Asian Cup, so are focusing on the Asian Games in November. And that front it makes sense that Robson has called-up some of his younger player.
The 30 member Indian squad is not fully fit. Captain Baichung Bhutia is set to start on the bench as he isn't fully fit for a 90 minute match after his thyroid problems. Stand-in captain Renedy Singh isn't fit either after viral fever, while Samir Naik and Baljit Singh Sahni aren't fit as well. This means that Climax Lawrence is set to lead the team.
The likely first eleven is set to be the strongest available eleven. It would see Subrata Pal in goal; Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh and N.S. Manju in defence; Steven Dias on the right and Anthony on the left wing with Climax Lawrence and N.P. Pradeep in central midfield; while Sunil Chhetri will have Mohammed Rafi as his strike partner in the absence of Baichung. And for Rafi it would be his official international debut. A remarkable development the now former Mahindra United striker has gone through over the last year.
In good news for Indian football fans my friend Chris Punnakkattu Daniel is going to have LIVE UPDATES on his personal site chrispd.de . Go to www.chrispd.de/news/20100904.php .
The match is set to kick-off at 18.00 local time (16.30 IST / 13.00 CET) .