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Stern Guam test for India in FIFA World Cup qualifier

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Stephen Constantine and Sunil Chhetri

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Stephen Constantine and Sunil Chhetri

National Head Coach Stephen Constantine dubbed India’s 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Preliminary Joint Qualifier against Guam on November 12, 2015 at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru as pivotal and a must-win affair for the ‘Men in Blue’.

Speaking at the Official Pre-Match Press Conference at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Constantine said: “It’s a game that we have to win tomorrow. We were look forward to win our home matches in the ongoing qualifiers and tomorrow serves us an opportunity to do so.”

“If we win tomorrow it also sets us on track for the qualification of the Asian Cup in 2019.”

“We could have taken points from some matches in the qualifiers,” Constantine reflected on India’s three narrow 1-2 defeats out of five matches in the qualifiers.

“There were games in which we were not the best, but at the same times there were matches where we deserved a point at the least. We were clubbed in a very competitive group wherein every team is difficult to play against,” he maintained.

The Indian team went down fighting 1-2 in an away fixture to Guam in mid July and according to skipper Sunil Chhetri, India just were not good on that day.

“We were simply not good enough,” said Chhetri sitting alongside Constantine in the Pre-Match Press Conference. “We did not turn up the way we should have against Guam and that is why we lost. All the other reasons, the wind, the turf, are secondary.”

Meanwhile Guam National Team Coach Gary White didn’t want to be drawn into analyzing India’s performance the last time the two teams met. “I am only concerned about my team. Whether it was a bad day or a good day for India when we played in Guam, I don’t know,” White quipped.

Chhetri who had scored India’s sole goal in Guam declared: “We are going to give everything on the pitch. We need to give everything, as a team. As individuals we have to perform well and most importantly win,” he pronounced.

“Guam have developed over the last 3-4 years and they have used the FIFA ‘Heritage’ Card to the full extent,” Constantine echoed. “However, we have the ability in this country, we have talent, but all we need is some time.”

“There are a great many factors which go into the National Team performing and one of them is time, as you cannot build a team in one month or even one year.”

“You need preparation and time for the National Team as it is a completely different ball game,” Chhetri complimented Constantine. “A player might perform well for a Hero I-League club, but at the international stage it’s a completely different ball game. The expectations, the philosophy, everything is completely different,” Chhetri stressed.

Coach Constantine has handed international debuts to as many as 16 players over the last seven international matches and according to the British coach it is all part of rebuilding the national setup.

Meanwhile, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, fresh from his club stint in Norway complimented the Bengaluru fans describing them as the “best.”

“The fans in Bengaluru have a great role to support us when we play tomorrow. They have already shown that they are the best fans in India and we need them in our corner tomorrow,” Sandhu stated during the Press Conference.

“They are the best fans in the World and we need them to cheer for us tomorrow. Back The Blue,” concluded Chhetri.

(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)