"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."
New Delhi, June 24 - Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has picked Germany as the favourites to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup and feels sad for Spain, saying the defending champions didn't deserve to make a first round exit.

My pick is Germany. 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, a discussion on the ongoing World Cup, here Tuesday.

Bhutia feels that Spain coach Vincent del Bosque, who led the team to victory in the 2010 edition and the 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 disappointed with the performance of European teams and felt that south American teams will have the extra edge due to the climatic conditions.

The tournament is happening in south American and the Europeans were bound to struggle there. Teams are struggling during the afternoon match. You can see whenever there is a fall, 10 players are rushing for a drinks break, 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 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.

Bhutia, who is the chairman of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) technical committee, 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've 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 help from the clubs, districts and the state associations. Officials at the state and the district level lack the commitment. The 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 have to do well at the international level, the players 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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