Players know what to expect from Bahrain game, says India's fitness coach

Danny Deigan, Indian football team's strength and conditioning coach, says the team is well-prepared for Bahrain match--which is its third game in nine days.

The current Indian side is capable of handling the workload of playing in the AFC Asian Cup.   -  AFP

After two energy-sapping games against Thailand and UAE, fitness and recovery are the need of the hour for the Indians as they prepare for their biggest challenge thus far. A win in their last group stage match against Bahrain on Monday will ensure the Blue Tigers advance to the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup, a historic first for the nation.

Ahead of the much-anticipated clash, India's strength and conditioning coach Danny Deigan offers insights into the team's preparation, how the squad has progressed over the last four years and how his team has moulded this Indian side into the robust unit that it is today.

Playing a third game in nine days will take a toll on the players but Deigan says they know what to expect from the game. “It’s a little different from what they normally do with their clubs, but we’ve focussed on this in our training, and so we know what they are going to perform roughly in a game physically. We’ve pretty much simulated physically what an Asian Cup looks like, so the players know what to expect this third game,” he says.

The Australian has been with the side since 2015 and has seen the team grow from strength to strength, literally. “Our highest outputs over the last four years was against Myanmar away in that first [Asian Cup] qualifier and then the match against Thailand [at the AFC Asian Cup],” he says.

Read: India's lack of defensive cohesion led to defeat against UAE

“Our numbers were a little bit lower [against UAE], but you need to remember this isn’t just our performance. It encompasses all the football as well, and how the match goes. But football is so complex – there are so many different areas coming in – tactics, technique and taking your chances – so it doesn’t directly correlate [to the result], but it can give an indication of where players can best be used tactically and what we need to do around training to make sure they are physically at their best to perform in their next game,” he adds.

The Indian players cover close to 10-12 kilometers per a game, of which 2-3 kilometers consist of high-speed running that involves quick pressing up and down. Then there's about 30 sprints per player and about 140 accelerations and decelerations, including sharp changes of directions in small spaces.

Positions also play a role, says Deigan: “Obviously the centre-backs don’t do so much [running]. The wide players – you would have noticed a couple of our younger players that we’ve introduced – have really turned things around and increased these numbers, and maybe this is a reason we’ve impacted few games slightly more.”

Ashique Kuruniyan (centre) has been a constant threat in the opposition half at the Asian Cup 2019.   -  Getty Images

 

Amongst the youngsters, he singles out 21-year-old Ashique Kuruniyan, whose work rate has been simply astounding in the two games. He has been a constant presence in the opposition's attacking third and his ability to race down the flanks and effectively use his physique to throw tackles has made him a force to reckon with.

While coach Stephen Constantine receives inputs from his dedicated team of analysts on what to expect from the opponent and the like, it is Deigan who advices him on players to look out for. “We’ve been watching Ashique for a few years. I’ve worked with him in the U-19s in 2015 and so he’s not a surprise to us. He’s quite dynamic in his output,” he says.

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The Australian noted that India's early arrival to the UAE gave the boys ample time to get used to the conditions, and that reflected on the pitch. “We’re very lucky we came here on the 20th of December. We had some good time to adjust, and that might be why we started the tournament in such a quick fashion.”

India was the first team to arrive in the UAE and will most certainly be eager to extend its remarkable run at the tournament. A win against Bahrain will ensure just that.

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