Indian Super League (ISL) side Hyderabad FC’s Spanish head coach Manuel Marquez is all praise for the Indian national football team after its performance in the combined FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers in Doha earlier this month.
Following their 0-1 loss to Asian champions Qatar, the Sunil Chhetri-led India defeated Bangladesh 2-0 before drawing Afghanistan to advance to the Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers final round.
The 52-year-old Marquez, whose contract with Hyderabad FC was extended by two years in February this year, said, “I watched the (India) games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan (earlier this month) and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the Indian youngsters. The game against Qatar was also a real test. India’s aim was to finish as high as possible in the group and I believe that the third-place finish was pretty well deserved."
India finished third behind Qatar (22 points) and Oman (18 points) with seven points in the five-team Group E. Afghanistan (6) and Bangladesh (2) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Marquez said the long ISL ‘post-season’ break has both its advantages and disadvantages. “I believe that the off-season for the ISL is a bit too long, which is not ideal for the players. But it gives us time to spend with family and friends and also for an occasional movie. The Euros and Copa America have also kept us busy.
“I have been in contact with the owners, staff, the players and the fans of Hyderabad FC, as we all begin our preparations for the new season," he said.
Hyderabad FC narrowly missed out on the 2020/21 ISL semi-finals as they finished fifth on the points table in what was a huge improvement on their bottom-place finish in the previous season.
“It was a pity we missed out on the top-4 after getting so close and cannot wait for the next season to get underway," Marquez said from Spain.