SAFF: India face Bangladesh tomorrow

Kathmandu, Sept 2 : Mission Pakistan accomplished, the relief was evident in the dressing room on Sunday.

The big family was smiling again -- be it old pals Gouramangi Singh and Subrata Paul discussing animatedly during the ice-bath; or Syed Rahim Nabi using his hand to explain dummies to Mohanraj Nallappan; or be it Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy shrugging his shoulders to Sunil Chhetri in a gesture of query.

Chhetri smiled as Nandy looked at him, shook his head, rubbed his fingers through his hair.

Francis Fernandes, sitting next, understood what it was all about - lady luck betraying the national captain against Pakistan.

Post dinner, all wrapped in a blanket while watching a comedy show on television, Chhetri, who stays three goals away from being India's highest-ever goalscorer, shook his head again.

More than him, his teammates couldn't believe that all four of his placements missed by a whisker, that too within a span of 10 minutes.

"It's destiny. That's how a striker's life goes. On a certain day, it just doesn't go in," maintained Jeje Lalpekhlua. "Next match," he reiterated what Medeira had said.

With the "first Final" won, India play Bangladesh in the "next Final" on Tuesday.

"It's our second Final," coach Wim Koevermans said.

"We are here to play five Finals and defend our Title. Bangladesh saw us play and will plan for us. They will come hard at us," he said.

At the hotel lobby, Bangladesh have been India's best friends so far.

They enquire and discuss all about Indian Football -- right from I-League to Odafa Okolie's transformation as the "most expensive player" of India to Indian women's team to the picturesque ground in Kalyani to IM Vijayan's exploits.

They have a Dutch Coach too, Lodewijk de Kruif, who was once Koevermans' student in an A-Licence Course.

The two exchange greetings in Dutch at the breakfast table from their respective tables.

"It's a do-or-die match for us. We will play to our full strength," he said.

"India were a bit lucky against Pakistan. We know their style of play as much they know ours," he said.

Dark clouds had threatened to deliver during Indian team's recovery session at the Police Headquarters ground. But it just drizzled.

Nirmal Chettri said during the official interaction: "The win against Pakistan was a morale booster. We are now focusing on the next match. The first match of any Tournament stays crucial and we responded well."

Speaking on strategy, Koevermans. "They are a good technical side and have their final chance against us. But we need to focus on ourselves and there's always a scope of improvement," he quips, looking up to the clouds overhead.

"Nepal and Bangladesh have had an extra day of rest as they played on 31st. When every other team is playing every alternate day, I think it's not fair," he said.

The kick-off at the Armed Forces Ground in Kathmandu on Tuesday is at IST 3.15pm.

--IBNS (Posted on 02-09-2013)

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