Indian team to leave for Portugal to prepare for AFC Cup

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New Delhi, Jul 1 (UNI) A 34-member Indian team will leave for Portugal tomorrow midnight for a training-cum-exposure tour to prepare for the AFC Challenge Cup that gets underway in Hyderbad from July 30.

The Indian team led by Baichung Bhutia, which also includes seven officials in the list, will play three friendly matches with club teams in Portugal.

Earlier, captain Baichung Bhutia had stated that the Portugal tour would play an important role in preparing the players for the upcoming challenge in the AFC Cup.

''After the Nehru Cup victory (in August last year), India did not play a tournament for nine months before the SAFF Championship.

''We need to continue to play to maintain the momentum and coordination among us in the build up to AFC Challenge Cup,'' Baichung said after the final session of the national camp before the Portugal tour.

Under-fire coach Bob Houghton also chipped in and said the tour will help to test the bench strength of the team as the AFC Challenge Cup schedule is pretty tight.

''During the 11-day tournament (AFC Challenge Cup) we will not be able to field the best team in all the matches. So we have to keep the reserve bench ready.

''Against club sides we can make as many substitutes as we like.

international friendlies, we can make only five changes in match.

So we are playing against clubs in Portugal and not against nternational sides,'' Houghton said.

India has roped in three goalkeepers for the tour and Houghton believes that the players would certainly benefit from the exposure.

The Team: Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharya, Subhashish Roy Chowdhary, K Subrata Paul.

Defenders: Govin Moirangthem, Denzil Franco, Surkumar Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Gouramangi Singh, Deepak Mondal, Anwar Ali, Syed Rahim Nabi, Sameer Naik.

Midfielders: Baldeep Singh (Jr), Steven Dias, Climax Lawrence, N P Pradeep, Clifford Miranda, Bungo Singh, Ajayan Krishanan Nair, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Renedy Singh.

Forwards: Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Manjit Singh, Abhishek Yadav, Sushil Singh, Tarif Ahmed.

UNI RAR PK RK2210

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