New Delhi: A match against Bayern Munich is a double-edged sword, and India coach Savio Medeira is well aware of it.
So, even as excitement grows ahead of the exhibition tie against the German giants at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday, Medeira, perhaps anticipating a heavy defeat to the four-time European champions, is at pains to remind everyone of the wide gulf between the two sides.
“The team’s preparation has been okay and we are ready for the game. But everyone knows the difference in the standard (of football) between Germany and India,” he said. “We are nowhere near the fitness levels of the European teams.”
Bayern have among their ranks world-class players like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, and the team has been in prolific form this season, with striker Mario Gomez averaging a goal per game. During their training camp in Doha last week, the German side hammered Qatari second-tier team SC Al-Sailiya 13-0. They are on course for success in the domestic league and have ambitions of competing with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League as well. Naturally India are expected to struggle, and Medeira is already worried about damage limitation.
“Even if you have the best of plans, if Bayern start with their full-strength team, it will be very difficult to contain them because they are far too superior. There is too much difference between the two sides in all aspects. So we will try our best, and hope for the best.”
“What I can do is just talk to the players, give them some confidence, and ask them to give their hundred percent,” said Medeira. “Within two days or a month or even a year, we cannot change the system in such a way that we can even dream of beating Bayern or coming close to them. So in my team talk I will try to motivate the players, guide them in certain ways, and then ask them to do the best that they can.”
Despite the odds stacked against them though, Medeira feels there are still some positives to be gained from what will be a learning experience for his relatively young and eager team.
“It is a privilege to get an opportunity to play against the Bayern Munich side. If we work hard as individuals and as a team, it will help us to prepare better for the future. For the players, it is an opportunity of a lifetime. They are not going to get a chance to get these players back again (in India) and play against them. So they will enjoy this moment and cherish it for their entire lives.”
But the words of caution are not too far away.
“I don’t think the players will be nervous, but yes, if the scoreline gets bigger as the match progresses, then maybe the confidence levels will go down. So I hope that doesn’t happen and we come out safe!”
One player will most certainly never forget this match, and that is Bhaichung Bhutia, who will lead India out for a final time on Tuesday. Having served the Indian team for more than a decade, injury forced the striker to finally hang up his boots last year. Even now all the attention is on Bayern Munich, but Medeira is adamant the former Indian skipper will get the farewell he deserves.
“I think this is the best chance that Bhaichung has got, and all of us have got to give him a fitting farewell. It is understandable that so much attention is being given to the Bayern Munich players, because this is the first time ever that a Champions League-winning club has come to India. But due credit has been given to Bhaichung as well and this is the best farewell for him. We are hoping to do well.”