SILIGURI: An acid test awaits the Indian football team as it gears up to take on higher-ranked Palestine, who are also the current AFC Challenge Cup champions, in an international friendly here on Monday.
The last time the two sides had met, in February 2013, India had squandered a 2-1 lead at the half-time to eventually go down 2-4 at the final whistle.
The West Asian nation is ranked 102 in comparison to India’s 158.
Recollecting India’s last match against Palestine in Kochi in February 2013, India coach Wim Koevermans said “Palestine are a very tough team”.
It’s almost after a year that Team India has assembled in Siliguri. It was in last November that Team India had played back to back international friendlies against Philippines and Nepal here.
National team captain Sunil Chhetri said: “The moment I heard that we were to play in Siliguri, I remembered the huge turnout which had stretched their vocal chords for us the last time we played here. We look forward to seeing all of them at the stadium cheering for us.”
“It’s disappointing that we had to cancel one match,” Koevermans said.
“We always look forward to playing strong opposition as that’s the manner you improve. But now we are left with just one game and that’s harsh on everyone,” he added in reference to Palestine Football Federation cancelling the second international friendly on October 9 despite signing the contract to play it.
Koevermans’ counterpart Saeb Jundia said: “We are here to play football. We have qualified for the Asian Cup and that’s a huge achievement for us. This is a preparatory match for us and we will try to utilise as many Players as possible,” he said.