India face Turkmenistan tomorrow in their final Group B match of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers at the MBJP Stadium, Petaling Jaya in Malaysia. Both sides have won their two opening matches and have ensured passage to next years finals, but this match will be about who will top the group.
It has a been a good tournament for India so far. After a fluent 3-0 win against Chinese Taipei they were made to work hard by Pakistan in their 3-1 victory and the new Team India has been up to the task with especially young Jeje Lalpekhulua catching a lot of the attention scoring three goals in his first two internationals.
But Turkmenistan will be of a different calibre. Central Asian sides have a touch of Russian flair in their game and are physically strong, so this will be a different test for our boys. In the tournament so far Turkmenistan beat Pakistan 3-0 and Chinese Taipei 2-0.
India in the evening today held a training session at the University grounds in Kuala Lumpur to prepare for the game. Coach Bob Houghton is set to give some of his bench players a start in tomorrow's game. Bob confirmed that Subrata Pal, Anwar and Jeje Lalpekhulua will start while the other eight starting players from last game will be benched, so it will be a chance for the other players to show themselves in a match against a tough opponent.
Coming to speak about the last game Bob Houghton said, "It's good to have already qualified and it was always high on our agenda. We came here with the motive to mark a place in the final round."
"It does gives us the opportunity to play the younger boys tomorrow, which surely is exciting as they will probably be playing the best team of the three we played. It will be a real test for the young ones and it's always important to give them the right exposure and that’s why we brought them here. Also the fact that senior team has already won the two games allow us to make these changes tomorrow," he added.
Jeje came in for special praise from Bob Houghton, "We should congratulate Jeje for his performance here for scoring three goals in two matches on his debut for the National team. It's indeed a remarkable performance and to add to this, his four goals he scored in the last round match of the I-League, it makes seven goals in three games, which shows his superb goal scoring form."