KOLKATA: Former soccer greats on Monday hailed India's hat-trick of Nehru Cup triumphs and said it was a new beginning for Indian football under chief coach Wim Koevermans.
In the Dutchman's first assignment, India bounced back from being 1-2 down to stun a much-higher ranked Cameroon 5-4 in the shootout to lift their third straight Nehru Cup.
"The type of football they displayed, the attitude shown by the boys is a very good sign for Indian football," Olympian PK Banerjee said. "Despite the height factor, we managed to keep possession, with some short-passing game. It's a tremendous achievement."
Speaking highly of the coach, he added, "He has done a great job. It seemed he has connected (himself) well with whatever advantages and disadvantages we have."
His younger brother Prasun, who captained India at the inaugural edition of Nehru Cup in 1982, went further saying India would make the World Cup if Koevermans was given time.
"The biggest problem with India is that we don't give continuity to our coaches. There has to be continuity. Give him (Koevermans) six years, and I'm sure we would make the World Cup."
"The best thing to have happened was that we're never bogged down. There was no inferiority complex, one significant change I noticed after the arrival of Koevermans. We also showed amazing temperament. Even trailing against the superior side, they fought till the last," he said.
Stating that Ciric Milovan of Yugoslavia was the best coach for India, he said, "But we never retained them. I don't see any reason in removing our coaches... Be it Milovan or (Bob) Houghton...."
The competition in the present days' Nehru Cup may be not be as stiff as it was earlier but Chuni Goswami said it's time to think about the positives.
"Our team never gave up. They showed the do-or-die attitude. The credit goes to the entire team, the coach, the players, the officials," Goswami said.
"We have to keep up the good work. The victory against the much higher-ranked Cameroon will boost our morale. Now, the real challenge would be to keep doing well."
Another former India captain Shabbir Ali also echoed the same views, "It's really pleasing for us to win Nehru Cup after a forgettable past couple of years."
"Nobody expected them to do well against higher-ranked Cameroon. But the way they carried themselves on the field yesterday speaks very highly of this side," he said.
Former international Manas Bhattacharya said it's a beginning of a new era under the Dutchman.
"We have not seen such a performance by India in recent past. We had the speed, height disadvantage. But our boys were good in defence as well as while attacking. It's a new era of Indian football," he said.