Baichung Bhutia has placed his bet on Germany to lift World Cup this time round © Getty Images
Baichung Bhutia has placed his bet on Germany to lift World Cup this time round © Getty Images

New Delhi: Jun 24, 2014


Former India football captain Baichung Bhutia has picked Germany as the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup 2014 and feels sad for Spain, saying the defending champions didn’t deserve to make a first round exit. “I didn’t expect Spain to go out so early. Nobody expected them to make a first-round exit. England were also in a difficult Group of Death. But the most shocking result was Spain going out in the first round,” Bhutia said on the sidelines of Google Cafe on Tuesday.

Bhutia feels that Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who led the team to victory in the 2010 edition and the 2008 and 2012 Euros, got it wrong this time. “At times managers do get it wrong. It was the starting line-up that del Bosque got wrong. (Diego) Costa was definitely injured and not well but started both the games. He was not fitting well into the system,” he said.

Bhutia was highly impressed with Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa but his favourite is German goalie Michael Neuer. The former striker feels that the difference between the top and the 32nd team in the World Cup has reduced and it was apparent from the some of the upsets that took place.

“There is not much difference among the teams and it is visible from some of the results. This is the reason why it has been a great World Cup. Smaller teams are now going on to beat bigger and better teams,” said Bhutia. He also admitted that India, ranked 154th in the FIFA rankings, have to do a lot of work to qualify for the World Cup.

“You cannot say never, but yes we got to do a lot of work. U-17 World Cup will be very crucial. We have to focus at the grassroot level and it is very important. On the whole, when we talk about Indian football, we talk only about the federation (AIFF). But we can really change the game at the grassroots with the help from the clubs, districts and the state associations. Officials at the state and the district level lack the commitment. Clubs also have to contribute a lot in terms of youth development,” he said.

Bhutia, who also played for English club Bury FC, feels that if India has to do well at the international level, payers need to get overseas club experience. “Right now, we have young players who can make it and they need to have that kind of exposure. It helps you a lot in terms of confidence and also psychologically. It makes you very competitive,” he said. Bhutia also hoped that India would benefit from the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL), a franchise-based football tournament, that will be held later in the year.

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