Dhaka, September 11: Head Coach José Antonio Nogueira who has taken over the reins of the Pakistan football team after their long absence from International football has set his focus to catch up with India in next 2-3 years and "overtake them (India) to claim the pole position in the SAFF region."
SAFF Cup 2018 Semifinal, India vs Pakistan: Preview, When and Where to Watch on TV, Date and Time | SAFF Cup 2018: India vs Pakistan is primarily a psychological battle, feels former captain Venkatesh
"Undoubtedly, India are the numero uno in the region. Coming back from a three-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," Nogueira told AIFF.
India 🇮🇳 have won 5️⃣ of their 7️⃣ #SAFFSuzukiCup matches against Pakistan 🇵🇰 (D1 L1) including a 2-0 victory in the semi-final (97), the only time they’ve met at that stage before. Who will come on top in this mouth-watering clash tomorrow? #INDvsPAK pic.twitter.com/oAHbfIdkW6— SAFF Suzuki Cup (@SAFFSuzukiCup) September 11, 2018
Pakistan meet India in the semi-finals of the SAFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday (September 12) and Nogueira said that the team is eagerly looking forward for the match. "It's going to be my first experience of an India-Pakistan match but I have been well acquainted with this sort of rivalry. But we have to concentrate on our game and stick to the plans to churn out a positive result. It will be a great experience for me and my team when we play India in the semis," Nogueira, who has earlier coached Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and St. Kitts and Nevis, said.
"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)."
Pakistan 🇵🇰 are looking to reach the final of the #SAFFSuzukiCup for the first time, having lost each of their previous three semi-finals in the competition. Can they defeat defending champions India 🇮🇳 on the 12th? pic.twitter.com/7wX86T8xID— SAFF Suzuki Cup (@SAFFSuzukiCup) September 10, 2018
The coach, who has followed Indian football closely, described the exposure tours to the Indian age-group national teams as a "very positive development." "India have laid down a blueprint and have worked relentlessly so far to execute it. Before the FIFA U17 World Cup, the team had travelled to Brazil for an exposure trip. Even the World Cup was so immaculately conducted," he stated.
"Arranging exposure trips for the age-group teams, playing quality opponents often are some of the good things which have happened to Indian Football recently. The upsurge in the FIFA Ranking is the perfect synergy of these efforts," he maintained.
“India’s 🇮🇳 quality is very good, they’re organised and synchronised. But we’re prepared and we’ll try to capitalise in any mistake they make”— SAFF Suzuki Cup (@SAFFSuzukiCup) September 11, 2018
- Head Coach of Pakistan 🇵🇰, José Antonio Nogueira #INDvsPAK pic.twitter.com/abwQiKu5Y7
Meanwhile, talking about the challenges his job has thrown at him, the Pakistan coach, said, "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."
"We had the PFF Cup and 65 players were selected from there. Since then, we shortlisted 32 and flew to Jakarta to compete in the Asian Games. We had some really tough games against Japan, Vietnam before landing here," he signed off.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the semifinal, Pakistan skipper Saddam Hossain said that the Indian youngsters have "enough potential and intelligence." "We have immense respect for India. They have come with a young team but we have seen their athletic prowess during the group stage. They have enough potential and intelligence to outplay their opponents on a given day," Hossain said.
Match is scheduled to kick-off at 7:00pm IST 7pm
Live on D Sport