Legendary German footballer Lothar Matthaus believes that the current Indian team has the quality to make it to the next round of the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, to be hosted by the UAE. India, who have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup commencing on January 5, 2019, are clubbed with hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain.
“I have to tell honestly that I am not a specialist about all Asian football. I know the top countries who play mostly in the World Cup. But I generally follow football not only in Asia but also in South America.
“When I saw the group in which they (India) are to play (in the AFC Asian Cup), it is possible for India to go to the next round,” Matthaus said Wednesday at a media briefing here.
The 57-year-old former soccer player is on a promotional visit to India.
“The UAE is the favourite and they are home game for them. But you (India) have the quality in your team to make strong competition against Bahrain and against Thailand and then everything is possible,” said the ex-Germany captain who led his country to the 1990 World Cup title when asked how India should approach the AFC Asian Cup.
Matthaus, who has appeared in five World Cups from 1982-1998, was also optimistic that India could think of qualifying for the World Cup in another 8-10 years.
“You cannot change from one day to another the results of Indian football. This needs time. May be in eight-ten years you (India) can think about World Cup qualification. I am sure you (it) will not come in 2022, but in 2026 and 2030 you(India) have a good chance,” the Germany and Bundesliga great noted.
Walking down memory lane, Matthaus recalled his on-field rivalry against Argentina great Diego Maradona. “I had different jobs. In 1986 (World Cup), my job was to stop (Diego) Maradona. In 1990, we had another player to stop Maradona and I was playing more in the offence and you see we had better results.
“Maradona in 86 was different than in 1990. 1986 was his World Cup; 1990 he was not playing on his highest level. And it was good for us (Germans) and not so good for Argentina, but generally we were a better team and were more stable than in 1986. It was always an honour for me to play against Diego Maradona,” he said.
While the 1986 World Cup played in Mexico was won by Argentina under Maradona, Germany lifted the 1990 edition held in Italy when Mathaus led his nation. Meanwhile, on his maiden India visit, the FC Bayern Munich great Tuesday visited an Indian Super League (ISL) game in Kochi between Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC.
On Thursday, he is set to witness another ISL game to be played in Mumbai.