x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Colaco puts pressure on the UAE

Armando Colaco is confident his young India side can give the UAE national football team a challlenging test.

The Indian football team created a stir by beating Qatar in a friendly in Doha last week.
The Indian football team created a stir by beating Qatar in a friendly in Doha last week.

Armando Colaco has warned the UAE national team not to take his young India team lightly when they meet in the first leg of the 2014 World Cup qualifier in Al Ain tonight.

India have not lost in five matches since the Asian Cup, where they were out-scored 13-3 and lost three matches, in January. Last week they stunned Qatar, a team ranked 53 places higher than them, 2-1.

The victory in Doha has given India a massive boost and though Colaco admits his team are not favourites for tonight's match, he is confident his team are capable of a surprise.

"It is not going to be easy for the UAE," he said. "It is easy for people to talk. I also can sit here and talk, but it is the players who will decide the fate of the match over 90 minutes.

"The UAE are in a better position because they are ranked much higher [No 110 versus 147] and [are] playing in their own backyard. But don't take my team for granted.

"My players are really good and eager to play. Maybe we will return home with sweet memories, but whatever the result, we will return with an experience that will help us to develop our football in the future."

Colaco has been hailed as the man with the Midas touch in India after guiding his side to one of the biggest victories in the country's football history last week. It was only his second match in charge following the 1-1 draw against Maldives.

Colaco took charge of the India team following the exit of Bob Houghton, who stepped down in April after five years in the job. Already familiar with India's players from his 10 years as coach of the Goan club, Dempo, Colaco unloaded some of the senior players and added nearly a dozen uncapped players in his squad for the Maldives and Qatar matches.

"These boys are really playing well," he said. "This is not the same team you saw in the Asian Cup. There is a lot of difference. They like to keep the ball, they like to press and they like to finish.

"So there is a lot of improvement."

He reminded his listeners that India get a home match against the UAE in Delhi on Thursday in the second leg of the tie.

"We will be trying to make sure we don't succumb to the pressure and [concede] too many goals. So, we try to minimise the score line, whatever it is, and take our advantage to the second leg in India."

Colaco changed the team's style of play, from Houghton's long-ball strategy to a more fluid and closed form. Results came almost immediately as India beat a Gulf team for the first time since the 3-2 victory over Kuwait in 2004; Houghton did not have a single away win against an international team in his five-year tenure.

"I have a young, promising team with me and the average age is 24, 25," Colaco said. "I've had just four weeks with this team and I am delighted with the promise they are showing. We are preparing this team for the next five to 10 years, so let's see how things go.

"The players have adapted really well to this new style of play. I am sure as the years pass by, this team will turn into a formidable unit."

arizvi@thenational.ae