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India gear up to face “difficult” Turkmenistan

Stephen Constantine and Sunil Chhetri
Stephen Constantine and Sunil Chhetri

Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

The colours of the Stadium nearby changes every minute! Still in awe, you discover the next minute the colours of the lights of the adjacent building are also changing every minute.

Changing colours!

At the Official Pre-Match Media Interaction ahead of India’s FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Turkmenistan, National Coach Stephen Constantine mentions about the “difficult task at hand.”

“We are aware of the difficult task. Turkmenistan had a fantastic result against Iran. It speaks about the ability and determination of the team,” he stated.

“Iran are a super power in Asia and we always respect a team which managed to get a point from them,” he added. “So we expect a very difficult game. The past may be hinting at something different but Turkmenistan are a much improved side in the last few years.”

The history books suggest that the two teams have played five matches among themselves with both sides having won two each while the other ended in a draw.

However, in age-group competitions including the Busan 2002 Asiad (where three senior players over the age of 23 were allowed), India have won twice in comparison to Turkmenistan winning once.

“We have watched some videos of Turkmenistan. They are very strong at home. We played against Iran at home in our last match and stay aware of Iran’s might even when they play away. And Turkmenistan held Iran at home,” Sunil Chhetri opines.

“We respect Turkmenistan. We have even watched the video of their match against Oman. They have some talented players,” he further pronounced. “But we are ready for that.”

The bad news stays that with a couple of players undergoing last minute fitness tests, Constantine hasn’t been able to zero down on his playing XI as yet.

“We are also missing Dhanpal Ganesh who was injured in the last match against Iran,” Chhetri maintains.

You look around in the City and you will find more lamp posts in Ashgabat than people and cars put together. And, however, hard you may try you won’t be able to spot a single piece of dirt anywhere – it’s Mission Impossible; a fact which Chhetri speaks about in the Media Interaction.

“It’s just so clean around,” he smiles. “The buildings are all white. It’s lovely being here,” he says in one breath.

Immediately after, the fact that India haven’t been able to garner a point as yet crops up.

“We have played three games till now – two at home and one away. We gave everything which we had in the three games and we are improving with every given day,” Chhetri quips.

“Let’s not forget that we are a young side and we want to take points from this match like we want to take points from every match we play. But we are taking one match at a time.”

The Indians would have to battle against a hostile crowd of over 20,000 in the match.

“We have a capacity of 25,000 and we are expecting a full house,” someone from the Local Organisers inform.

But there will be some support for India too as the Honourable Ambassador of India Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad will be coming to cheer. Members from the Indian community are also expected to wave the Tri-Colour from the stands.

Constantine reiterates that he is trying to “build a team for the future.”

“We have some injuries in our squad and we know our strengths and we are ready,” he declares.

At a distance, the changing colours by then has grabbed the attention of the entire contingent.

Just changing colours? Or is it symbolic of a change in fortunes? The Indian National Team desperately waits for it.

The kick-off on Thursday, October 8 is at 18.30 IST.

(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)