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India gear up to face Iran in World Cup qualifiers

Sunil Chhetri, Stephen Constantine and Sandesh Jhingan
Sunil Chhetri, Stephen Constantine and Sandesh Jhingan

Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

Only the other day someone quipped: “Let me ask you a quiz question.” You turned and got ready to answer. When did India last beat Iran?

It was time to get back to the history books and courtesy the internet, nowadays everything is on a platter. And as you found it out, the others waited for the answer.

For the record, India last beat Iran in 1959, the second and last of India’s victory against the ‘Giants of Asia,’ the other one obviously being in the Final of the inaugural Asian Games in Delhi.

Strange as it may sound, it was 56 years back that India last won against Iran. The players were not even born then. The disparity further hits you hard as on the FIFA ladder, Iran at 40 are the strongest in Asia, while India are on 155.

Mission Impossible at Sree Kanteerava Stadium?

At the pre-match Official Media Interaction, Sunil Chhetri named the Captain for the Match mentions this being possibly one of the “biggest matches” for him.

”We all know who we are playing tomorrow. Iran are 40th in the world and the best team in Asia. The most important thing is to understand what we have trained and how we have trained,” he states.

“It’s always difficult to play exactly the way you want when you play such high ranked team. We need to be fit and do our best.”

National Coach Stephen Constantine sitting next added: “Iran are one of the best sides in Asia. They are where they are because of the things they have done in the past and are doing it even presently.”

“There is a great deal of respect for Iran but don’t mistake that for fear. It’s 11v11 on the field. If we work hard there is a chance that we can take something from this game; and I believe we can.”

Chhetri who has been an integral part of the Indian National Team for the last decade elaborated further.

“This is the toughest game of my career. In the last ten years, this is my second opportunity to play Iran. It is that opportunity that the boys should take. This is an opportunity to show that how much we have improved. We are relishing it,” Chhetri quipped.

“Exactly,” Sandesh Jhingan complemented Chhetri.

“We are extremely excited. You don’t get to play Iran every day. I have fully recovered from my shoulder injury and am feeling mentally and physically charged up,” he informed.

“You need to be mentally prepared for games like these. You need to be on your toes. We are preparing for Iran and the Coach has done a great job. We will work hard for it,” he went on.

Later at the Team Hotel, Jhingan raises his eyes from match videos as you walk in to his room. “If you want to want something big, you can be afraid of any team. It’s a golden opportunity for us. Its’ not every day that you get to play against the best,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Constantine also mentioned about the requisites needed for one to make his case for selection in the team.

“International Football is a different platform altogether. When you are scouting Players for a certain position you need to scout with certain aspects in mind, eg, a central defender needs to be tall and so does a goalkeeper,” he pronounced.

Grey skies with dark clouds and intermittent rain have stayed the hallmark of weather in Bengaluru since the last few days. You turn to the internet and discover the weather forecast mentioning about a thunderstorm tomorrow (September 8) afternoon.

For the record, there are no injury concerns in the Indian contingent.

Passion, determination, and attitude – that’s what India banks on at the moment. Overturning a 56-year old history in the next 90 minutes depends on how one approaches it.

“As players we crave for such matches,” Eugenson Lyngdoh reiterates. “Tell me, who doesn’t want to play the best? It’s a lifetime opportunity and we need to make it count.”

“There are no easy games in Football. We will take as they come,” Constantine utters.

The kick-off at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on September 8 is at 19.00 IST. The match will be live on Sony Kix.

(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)