Guam vs India fallout – training your gun at the right people?
Back in 2010, Indian football was at a similar critical juncture. The only difference was that, we were losing to good teams in friendlies but not in any World Cup qualifiers as it is happening now. However, the script looks almost the same. Experts, former coaches and players were taking pot shots at the team. Back then, we were preparing for our appearance in 2011 AFC Asian Cup. In the aftermath of defeat in the Guam vs. India 2018 World Cup qualifier, I am trying to analyze if it is fair to criticize the newly appointed coach and the freshly drafted in national team players.
The difference is that we were prepared much better for the Asian Cup than what we are right now. Bob Houghton had selected a coterie of players who went through extensive training for around one and half years. We even played a lot more friendlies before our appearance in the 2011 Asian Cup. We played around nine friendlies in the run up to the Asian Cup. Our campaign in AFC Cup in Group C was not spectacular but what it showed was that extensive preparations could limit the damage. We did not see damning score lines against top teams such as South Korea, Bahrain. (Subjective. 4-1 defeat to South Korea is not a damning score line according to me!)
Cut to 2015, we have a coach who has been appointed around 6 months ago or so; a team that practiced for a week, devoid of match practice or friendlies, struggling against teams that have been improving fast, off late. In short, the defeat to Guam is not really a surprise.
The other question is how the same team that showed some amount of promise against Oman went very awry against a lower ranked Guam. There are two reasons for this. Even though the 2-1 score line was a respectable one against Oman, we were saved by the callousness of Omanis. If they were a bit more clinical, score line would have been even worse. Our team played with a good drive and players playing their hearts out against Oman. The main reason behind that drive was the great home support the team received in Bangalore.
Team took a long trip of about 27 hours to reach Guam after the home defeat to Oman. They were treated to a super humid tropical climate and played on an artificial turf. After the first defeat against Oman, fans were already on an overdrive against the coach, team selection, and players. And our players completely forgot the basics while we succumbed to the pressure from a very good Guam side.
While these are no excuses to redeem the team from the bad performance, we should also understand the undue expectations we have on our team. Our media also does not help the case by repeatedly parroting Guam’s size and population in every other reference to the defeat. It is nice to compose a title for an article or a tweet by mentioning the size and population of Guam but that diverts the attention from the real issues that plagues our football system. Several small nations consistently do well in football, just as bigger nations like India and China continuously under-perform in football.
One and a half year long practice and nine friendlies in 2010 did not earn us a single win in 2011 Asia Cup. How can you expect a team that was assembled ten days ago the Oman fixture to perform miracles?
Rather than venting your ire on the coach and players, the criticism should be directed towards the shambolic fixture management by the custodians of Indian Football, the AIFF.
Do go through these insightful articles that came out in the media after the defeat to Guam.
- Small Guam teaches India big lesson – Derrick Pereira’s remarks in this article is spot on.
- Qualifier defeat against Guam showed everything that is wrong about Indian football
- Behind Guam – Editorial in today’s Indian express makes a good read too.