BENGALURU: An unconvincing India defeated Nepal 2-0 to gear up for the tougher AFC Asian Cup Group A match against the Kyrgyz Republic. About 48 hours before that match, India defender Anas Edathodika sounded confident, saying that the players are fully focused on the game without being overtly bothered.
“Kyrgyz Republic are a tough team no doubt, but our preparations remain the same as we do against every team. But then we know that Nepal and Kyrgyz Republic can’t be compared. We have to give them the respect they deserve,” said Anas on Sunday. India are 100th in FIFA rankings, Kyrgyz Republic are 132nd.
The Nepal game was considered to be a smooth ride for the Men in Blue, but defensive lapses and unproductive forays made the task difficult. Anas said the team had moved on from that game and are ready for the bigger challenge. “The friendly against Nepal was to prepare for Kyrgyz Republic. It was an opportunity for us to get our combinations right and gel as a team. We did win the game and it was a lesson for me and all of us who played. But now we are ready for Kyrgyz Republic and since we are playing at home, we will be looking for three points,” he added.
Anas’ story has been of a late bloomer. Starting as an unpolished amateur footballer at Malappuram, Kerala, to play alongside Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos for Delhi Dynamos, he has seen quite a lot. A discovery of former Mumbai FC coach David Booth, Anas had a good outing with Delhi Dynamos in the Indian Super League and was soon under the radar of Mohun Bagan. But national team call-up was still a dream for the 30-year-old. After a string of superb performances at the heart of the Bagan defence, India coach Stephen Constantine finally gave him the nod in March. Anas started against Cambodia in a friendly.
Anas felt it was the biggest day of his career. “I felt a lot of pressure when I turned out in the India jersey for the first time. This feeling was different. The entire nation was looking at what I was doing, I wanted to do the best I could,” he added.