The tactician who was joined by full-back Pritam Kotal also spoke about the importance of the game against China and his quest to build for the long run.

With less than three months left for the AFC Asian Cup, the Indian team is preparing really hard for the upcoming challenge. India will play two friendlies before stepping up for the big competition. Ahead of India’s first friendly game against China, head coach Stephen Constantine and star full-back Pritam Kotal interacted with the media discussing the importance of these friendlies for the upcoming Asian Cup.

When questioned about how the team is working the coach replied, “Some of the players are training for the first time today, Of course, it is a problem we don’t have much time to do what we want to do. Going forward, I know we have FIFA dates, but we need more time. One or two days before we go play a game is very difficult.”

Elaborating on why the team needs more time before games he elaborated, “For example the boys that played on the 7th, they arrived at 8th around lunchtime, so they cannot train on that day. Since they played on 7th they cannot train or we could face some injuries. The players need at least two days of rest before we can put them in and we don’t have time because we play in four days.”

The coach also revea;ed some big news regarding Balwant Singh’s omission from the squad. “Balwant Singh had to drop out of the squad because his passport is not exactly six months. It is five months and a week and that is another frustrating thing. Because Bali has done well in the last 18 months with me and he is a player we value very much.”

“Most of you know when they come into camp, we have time to test their fitness levels, but after playing one or two games in a week we cannot test them and most of them have played two games in the ISL, so I guess they are okay,” said the tactician on player fitness.

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When questioned about the number of U-23 players he has in the squad the coach replied,  “Yes 13 of them are in there. I believe in building for the future. From when I started I guess we have given 44 debuts and I would say more than 50% of them are U-23 which is good for football in India and I hope more and more youngsters come into these leagues so that we can use them.”

“China is obviously a good side and they also like to press high, so it is going to be a difficult game and we have to play under pressure. It will be a great indicator and will help us understand where we are and we will go all out,” said Constantine on Saturday’s game.

When questioned about whether a youngster will get a chance in Saturday’s starting XI the coach replied, “I have an xi in my head and if someone is unavailable then we have enough players. If there is an opportunity to put a younger player, younger blood in the middle than I will do it.”

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“I want us to be fully aware of what are we going to face in the Asian Cup. China is very big and best in the Asian region and we will find out how good or how far we have to go. Friendly or no friendly we will give all in. You are representing your country. Friendly is just a word, but these boys want to go for the Asian Cup, so they have to play for that position,” said the Englishman when asked how important these friendlies are and what they expect from China in the upcoming game.

Indian full-back Pritam Kotal also interacted with the media ahead of Saturday’s big game. The 25-year-old emphasized that the team will play as a unit and will do their best to get a positive result.

“It is a very important game for us. Within two-three months we will play the Asian Cup and this game will tell us where we need to improve or where they tried to exploit us and we are preparing really well for this,” said Kotal on the importance of the weekend’s game.

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The full-back also shed some light on how important the Indian defence will be in the upcoming friendlies.”We are training really hard. We haven’t seen many videos of Chinese players, but we will definitely take a look at it before the match. The coach has given us a basic idea of where they are strong or where they are weak and we are working on it. We still have two-three days before the game, so we will prepare really hard. “

“It depends on the match. However, the coach will instruct me I will play,” said the defender when questioned about whether he sees himself as an attacking or defensive full-back.

When questioned about whether two friendlies are enough to prepare for the Asian Cup the 25-year-old replied, “Yes, I guess it is enough. China and Jordan both are good teams. After facing these two teams we can understand how the other teams are going to be.”