Coming on back of six consecutive wins including the unofficial match against Bhutan, the Indian National Team face Nepal in an International Friendly tomorrow, June 6 at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai ahead of their crucial 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyz Republic on June 13 in Bengaluru.
Speaking at the Official Pre-Match Press Conference Head Coach Stephen Constantine did not beat around the bush. “I hope to get a win against Nepal and I hope to see players who vie for the starting XI put up a good show so I can assess them for the game against Kyrgyz Republic which is a very important match for us,” he stated.
“The FIFA Rankings are just one aspect of the game. It is not as if we would now relax, we would not be pushing to break the 100 barrier. However our focus is completely now on Nepal and we will take one game at a time.”
Nepal have always reserved their best against India though the recent results against Nepal have been in India’s favour. The last time the two teams clashed 18-year old Lallianzuala Chhangte starred in a 4-1 win in the SAFF Suzuki Championship in Thiruvananthapuram, which India eventually won.
However, Constantine believes that it will be a different setting altogether tomorrow. “Nepal is a very hard working team and we expect the usual from them – a tough fight till they cannot fight anymore. Initially we had Lebanon to play but we could not host them because of visa difficulties. I need to thank Nepal for coming to play us.”
“There are no easy teams. Every teams has its own challenges and poses its own difficulties.”
Constantine’s men will also be looking to draw inspiration from their recent rise in the FIFA Rankings, which sees India ranked 100 – a historic moment for Indian Football only achieved thrice.
“We have developed in the last two years and now is the time to show everyone that we deserve to be here and we have to strive to maintain this style of progress,” said Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who will lead the Indian side against Nepal on the morrow.
“Being 100 does not mean we are favourites or that we have become a super team. Two years back we were 173 and I had then stated that the target it to get into the top 100. Everyone had laughed it off. Being at 100, the next logical target will be to get into the top 50,” he maintained.
“We have come a long way and if we keep on working like this and if we focus on the AFC Asian Cup we can make it and go even higher in the FIFA ladder,” Gurpreet added.
Meanwhile, Constantine informed Sunil Chhetri will not be playing against Nepal while C.K. Vineeth was released from the Camp on the day due to a sore ankle.
“Sunil is a very good player and has been for a long time. I hope he has many more years to give for India. I would like Chhetri to be leading the team in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019, if we qualify. The day he hangs his boots, it will be huge loss for Indian football.”