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Intercontinental Cup – A mere series of friendly games may fall short of Asian Cup preparation

IN THE FIRST match of the Intercontinental Cup, India won the game convincingly by a huge margin over Chinese Taipei. The four-nation tournament features Kenya and New Zealand as the other two teams representing their respective continents.

The earlier announcement from the AIFF said the agreement was to have first-teams of each of Taipei, South Africa and New Zealand come to play in the Intercontinental Cup. South Africa backed out and Kenya was the replacement for the African continent

Chinese Taipei brought in multiple under 23 players, not many of them have played professional football. Clearly, this was not the kind of opposition India could face in the big test coming in January 2018 when India plays in the AFC Asian Cup. The fact remains visiting teams are free to choose the kind of squad to bring to a tournament.

India headed to the Asian Cup need a much better opposition to prepare in the best possible way

Bringing up the tournament topic, the Intercontinental Cup certainly not a tournament. India made six substitutions in the game. These number of substitutions could only be possible in a friendly game begging the question, Was there a need to call this a tournament? The reasons could be commercial. A Cup tournament attracts a lot more viewership and fans to the stadium than labelling it just as a series of friendly game.

The big number of substitutions allows the coach to throw in players at any time just to tick off saying the player was given the exposure. A team in transition of introducing youth among seniors are suited to this kind of one-off tournament. Chinese Taipei rightfully provided their budding players the exposure by getting them to this tournament but India has got bigger targets than just introducing players for ten or even four minutes.

Today, we saw a near Under 23 team beaten by a team that's fighting to make it to the knockout stages of a real Continental Cup for a long time now. Performing exceptionally well against youth teams just gives superficial satisfaction. Preparation towards the Asian Cup doesn't look on the right track if we don't have multiple quality senior oppositions to play before January next year. With our Federation personnel being present at respectable AFC and FIFA positions, we should have done a lot more to set the best of a preparatory platform for the Asian Cup.

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