Figure this out – 13 players from the squad of 27 assembled in Mumbai are below 23 years! When have India been so young? Ever?
A day prior to the match against Puerto Rico in the Official pre-match media interaction, National Coach Stephen Constantine mentions about the aim of building the “pool of players.”
“We are trying to build a pool of players who would represent India for the next 6-7 years. In fact, we already have built a sizeable group but there will be additions,” Constantine stated. “Today there is a healthy competition for each of the slots,” he states.
Indeed there is. You glance through the team sheet and will find out that except for Sunil Chhetri, Subrata Paul, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Arnab Mondal and Narayan Das, none among the 27 had ever played an international match prior to Constantine taking over. ‘Work hard and play for India,’ has been the ideology.
“Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will captain the team tomorrow against Puerto Rico,” Constantine announced.
“One of the biggest plusses I have found with the Indian players is their thirst for knowledge. They want to learn and get better. It’s not hard to teach Indian players and they pick things up quite quickly. But you need to be repetitive,” Constantine added.
Sunil Chhetri, the highest goal scorer for India in international Football felt the younger crop stay much “aware of what needs to be done.”
“There are a lot of young ones in the squad. Today’s younger bunch is much aware and professional as to what they need to do,” he certified.
Constantine also mentioned about the “quality” of Puerto Rico.
“They are a good side with many good players. Yeah, one may mention about their landing timing in Mumbai but you cannot take away their quality. Can you?” he opined. “Puerto Rico were one of the best movers in the FIFA Rankings. They are a very organised side.”
“They love to keep the ball and play it around. They are technically very good. Once they are around the box they are very dangerous. Against USA they split open the rival defence with three touches.”
‘Will India play defensive?’
“We are very motivated to play against a side ranked 114. If you want to go higher it’s important that you play against stronger sides. I would rather lose 4-0 to Iran than win 3-0 against a weaker nation,” he argued.
“There will be no change to our approach. We will play the same manner we played against Iran. We will play attacking football.”
In fact, India’s approach against Iran had come in from high praise from Carlos Quireoz who had said India had frustrated Iran with their attacking mindset.
Constantine also praised Gurpreet’s attitude of “sticking in Norway.”
“People often say he went out to play abroad. But I would say that he stayed out there and continued. And in a country like Norway it’s not easy at all and this guy has been fighting it out for the last three years.”
Gurpreet mentioned that it was quite a “struggle” to settle down.
“It was cold, extremely cold. I had to live alone which I had never done in life. I had to use public transport which perhaps I have hardly done. On top of that I had to cook and train. The initial days were difficult. But I have settled down now.”
Chhetri pronounced that the clubs and the National Team setup needs to “be in sync.”
“The manner in which the very minute things are dealt at the National Team setup need to be done at the club level too — the nutrition, the food, the rest – everything needs to be in sync. It will be much more beneficial when it happens.”
A match in Mumbai was long overdue. It is a fantastic opportunity. The pitch looks extraordinary.”
The kick-off at the Andheri Sports Complex on Saturday (September 3) is at 20.00 IST and the match will be telecast live on Star Sports 2 and Star Sports HD 2 with live streaming on Hotstar.
(Report & Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)