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Calderon inspires 'deserving' players

BAHRAIN head coach Gabriel Calderon says that a place on the senior men's national football team is open to any player who wishes to take it, writes PATRICK SALOMON.

All they will need to do is to impress the Argentinean in their ongoing domestic competitions, and he will give them a chance to show whether they are deserving of a national team spot and of representing the kingdom internationally.

Calderon said that the next opportunity will be coming up in a few weeks' time when Bahrain take on Qatar on March 22 in their second group 'D' game in qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

The Bahrainis opened their qualification campaign with an impressive 2-0 victory over Yemen last week in a game that Calderon was able to use a few new players, all of whom impressed.

Among them were goalkeeper Ebrahim Luthfallah, replacing Bahrain's regular stopper Sayed Mohammed Jaffar between the posts, and midfielders Mahmood Alajmi and Saad Al Amer, both of whom were playing for missing prominent internationals Mohammed Salmeen and Jaycee John.

Calderon said that this current period being qualifying matches is a good opportunity to identify some new players excelling in local competitions, and they may soon get a chance to put on the red and white of Bahrain and play on an even bigger stage.

"We are always thinking of improving the national team," Calderon said in a statement translated into Arabic released by the Bahrain Football Association.

"We made a few changes after the 21st Gulf Cup, and then in our match with Yemen, introduced some new players into the squad who have played with the national team before but not consistently.

Opportunity

"Now all players have the opportunity to prove themselves that they can represent the Bahrain national team. Playing for your country is a big responsibility, and if you are not up for the task, I will gladly take another player who is waiting for a chance.

"I have so far been with Bahrain only a few months, and I am very happy with the level we have achieved in this very short time. But we want to work more over the next period, and we will constantly look to create the best combinations and the best team possible for Bahrain."

Calderon is planning for the national team to play a friendly or two prior to hosting the Qataris for their qualifier. These tune-up games could see some of the newer talents he is wishing would emerge.

"Such friendly matches are very useful for our young players," Calderon said.

Bahrain and Qatar are in group 'D' of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup, along with Yemen and Malaysia. Only the top two teams from each of the five qualification groups make it through to the 2015 finals, which are to be held in Australia.

In qualifying, group 'A' features Oman, Jordan, Singapore and Syria; group 'B' comprises Iran, Kuwait, Thailand and Lebanon; Group 'C' includes Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia; and Group 'E' features Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and recently crowned Gulf Cup champions the UAE.

A total of 16 national teams will be playing in the Asian Cup. Five spots have already been taken; they include a place for host nation Australia, one for 2011 Asian Cup winners Japan, another for 2011 Asian Cup third-placers South Korea, and a place for 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners North Korea, while the fifth will go to the winner of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. The other 11 positions will be filled by the qualification competition.

Bahrain have appeared in the Asian Cup four times in the past, including in the 1998, 2004, 2007 and 2011 tournaments.



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