New Delhi: On Saturday evening, when the Indian team had a practice session on the eve of the Nehru Cup final, national coach Wim Koevermans asked his boys to prepare for the penalty shoot-out. Before you jump to the conclusion and say that is why India were so perfect in the tie-breaker on Sunday, wait…
"They took eight penalties and missed all," revealed Koevermans. "I just walked off the pitch. Today, before the tie breaker started, I told the boys that I expected them to do better than what they did in practice. They converted all five… It was simply a great show," said the Dutch coach with a laugh.
"It was the team spirit that won the final for us," said the coach. "They played like a well-oiled unit and were never bogged down by the big names. I am proud of my boys… It is a special moment in my coaching career."
While Koevermans called it a great show, his captain Sunil Chetri thought it was India's best-ever Nehru Cup performance in recent times. "We have won three Nehru Cups in a row, but this is the best," he said. "In the previous two Nehru Cups, we played against Asian sides… Here we had to beat Cameroon. They are a quality side, winning against them is a big achievement."
Chetri even admitted that he had doubts about India's chances in the final. "I am honest about it… Perhaps you people also felt the same way. At the start of the tournament, I never thought we could win the Nehru Cup this time."
What also made the 2012 Nehru Cup a memorable one was the presence of 20,000 people in the final. They backed the team from the onset of the match and ran onto the field after the home side bagged the title. The footballers, on their part, did a victory lap to thank the spectators.
"Delhi is one of the best venues for the Indian team," said Chetri. "I want to thank the crowd for the massive support." Koevermans, too, was ecstatic. "I can even understand Hindi now… I have become an Indian," said the coach.