India stormed into the Intercontinental Cup final, and won the final with a brace by Sunil Chhetri. The question is, what happens next with our Indian football team?
India faced Kenya, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand in the Intercontinental Cup tournament (which going by present trends, will be the first & last edition of this Cup). If you judge based on rankings, Kenya is placed 112th, New Zealand is placed at 120th & Chinese Taipei is just behind them at 121st. But ranking does not really tell the full story; under their new coach, Chinese Taipei had defeated Bahrain, Laos & Philippines before the tournament, all higher ranked teams.
Meanwhile, Kenya was missing Victor Wanayama (Tottenham Hotspurs), though they seemed largely full strength, & lastly New Zealand sent what is said to be one of the youngest teams in their history (who defeated India 1-2). So while winning the Cup final was by no means an easy task, it also has to be seen in perspective. That, and the fact that it was Sunil Chhetri who was almost literally (on the pitch) & figuratively (with the appeal to the Indian fans) running the show for India.
After The Intercontinental Cup
Later in 2018, India will head to Bangladesh as the defending champions for the SAFF Cup. Played between all South Asian countries (7 of them), this will be the 12th edition of this tournament. India’s group stage opponents will be Sri Lanka & Maldives; given the form our football players are in, anything less than a victory will be a disappointment.
2019 will, however, bring the real test. India will play in the Asian Cup, with its group stage opponents being Bahrain (rank 113), Thailand (rank 122), UAE (rank 77). India will be in the tournament for only the second time in 34 years, the last time being in 2011. With it expected to be the last tournament for India’s talisman Sunil Chhetri (he is 33) & the first big tournament for our Under-17 players from 2017, Indian football is going to be definitely worth watching in the next one year.