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Pakistan Coach Nogueira Wary of Indian Challenge Ahead of SAFF Championship Semi-final

Head Coach of the Pakistan football team, Jose Antonio Nogueira said that it will be a “great experience” to play against India in the semi-final of the SAFF Championship on Wednesday at Dhaka.

News18 Sports

Updated:September 11, 2018, 8:52 PM IST
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Pakistan Coach Nogueira Wary of Indian Challenge Ahead of SAFF Championship Semi-final
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Head Coach of the Pakistan football team, Jose Antonio Nogueira said that it will be a “great experience” to play against India in the semi-final of the SAFF Championship on Wednesday at Dhaka.

It will be the first time that the two sides will be meeting in an official international encounter after five years, and Noguera is aware of the challenge that India will pose.

“It will be a great experience for me and my team when we play India in the semis,” he told the AIFF. “We will gain some invaluable experience from those 90 minutes. India have achieved some major feats to reach the next level. I feel the experience which India gather playing against the opponents like Japan or maybe a South Korea, we'll get against them (India).”

The Brazilian Nogueira said that while he recognizes the progress India has made in football, his primary focus is to get Pakistan back on track after a three-year FIFA ban.

“Undoubtedly, India are the numero uno in the region. Coming back from a 3-year long hiatus, we are nowhere close to them. My first target is to close the gap in the next 2-3 years. We’ll then set the target to conquer the region,” he said.

Nogueira is faced with the challenge of reviving a team placed at the 201st spot in the FIFA ranking, and is aware of the magnitude of the task ahead of him. “I knew this job will be a very challenging one but as a coach, it's my duty to accept it. It was like of coming out from zero and restarting the system. Building a National team is not a magic. But the players have responded well so far,” he said. “We had some really tough games against Japan, Vietnam (at the Asian Games) before landing here (in Bangladesh).”

Meanwhile, Pakistan centre-back Zesh Rehman, who has plied his trade for clubs such as Fulham, QPR, Brighton and Norwich City said that it would be “special” to lock horns with India in the semi-final.

“It's always special to play India. I believe it's same for the Indian players too when they play against Pakistan. The match has a lot of history. The emotions involved is huge. The rivalry pushes everyone to give that extra bit.

“This particular match means a lot to both the countries and the players. The adrenaline rush around this match is profuse. We have to be very cautious and can't afford to let the emotions take over us.”

Current captain of the Pakistan squad also didn’t hide his excitement to play against India. “We can’t just wait to play against India. We have every ounce of respect for our opponents but that won’t deter us from playing our natural game. We have shown our worth and I believe it’s going to be a heck of a contest and no one will prefer to give it a miss,” Hossain maintained.

The last time the two teams met in an official encounter in 2013 in Kathmandu, Saddam was playing down the right flank and hit the post twice. India went on to win the match 1-0, but it was a closely fought encounter. With India having sent out a largely inexperienced and young team to the tournament, another close encounter between the traditional rivals can be expected.
| Edited by: Suyash Upadhyaya
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