The Indian gaffer is not reading too much into the other countries sending in young and inexperienced squads.
The Intercontinental Cup was looked upon as one of the toughest challenges India would face in their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup. But, what has happened in the past few days, has taken the shine away from the four-nation competition. While the Kenya head coach initially declined to come to India with a weakened squad, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand have sent very young and inexperienced teams.
Keeping the controversies surrounding the tournament aside, Indian national team head coach Stephen Constantine and skipper Sunil Chhetri appeared in a press conference earlier on Thursday.
India begin their Intercontinental Cup campaign against Chinese Taipei at the Mumbai Football Arena in the tournament opener. Talking about the fixture on Friday Stephen Constantine said, “It’s a great pleasure to see the Indian national team playing. It’s an honour to be coach of them.”
The Indian gaffer is hopeful for the Intercontinental Cup
He also added, “We use these games as preparation for the Asian Cup as I have said before. I am looking forward to playing Gary White and Chinese Taipei and of course, Kenya and New Zealand, who will give us different looks and different problems. We need these games in our development process.”
There was a lot of hype going around about the level of competition that India will get to face. There was also talks of a few Premier League players coming to India. However, after the news broke of the stars’ absence from the Intercontinental Cup, questions have been raised about the level of competition that India ill truly face.
When asked about it Constantine said, “Look, that’s something we don’t control. Kenya, whoever they will bring will be tough competition. I have been in Africa for five-six years and I know the level of the competition we can expect.”
About New Zealand, Constantine added, “New Zealand have players playing all across Europe. They play in League One or League Two or Championship or even Premier League. You have to look at the quality of the leagues they are playing in. So, I don’t necessarily think of that as a problem. We are looking at these games as a development process for the Asian Cup. It’s not about the FIFA rankings.”
The training and the preparations of the Blue Tigers have been the subject of everyone’s questions and curiosity lately. With their sights set on the AFC Asian Cup, the preparations have to be tailored keeping in mind the conditions in the UAE and the physicality of the opponents. As such, the travelling teams, Kenya and New Zealand, are also deemed to be physically tougher opponents.
So, when asked if the training sessions are planned to help the players cope with the physicality of these teams Constantine said, “It’s not something different. We are preparing the same way we were preparing previously. In terms of physicality and how we tactically matchup is a different story.”
“We have analysed things, we have broken them down. We will set our plans to win each of the games,” he added.
Sunil Chhetri and his fellow Bengaluru FC players joined the national camp late. Whereas, many players have not featured in a competitive game for the national side for long. When Chhetri was asked if that would have any effect on the players’ performance in the games he answered, “I think preparation has been very good. The coaching staff works very hard.”
The Indian skipper seemed enthusiastic about the Intercontinental Cup
“There are some players who haven’t played for a month or so and some who played in Bangladesh not far before. I think coach had all the data and I think he was on point. As the tournament starts, we don’t feel overplayed and are on the same page. As far as we are concerned, we are going to give our 200%,” the 33-year-old added.
“It’s an absolute honour for me to have played for my country. I have been involved with many coaches, players, physios and staff. I love playing for India and will give my best what I can. I am fully fit.”
“It was a mixed bag when he first arrived for the Camp. There were players some of whom hadn’t played for almost a month while there were some who joined the Camp straight from an AFC Cup match. But we are ready.”
Chhetri who stays two matches short of becoming the second-ever Indian player to play 100 International matches after Bhaichung Bhutia opined there is a lot of “awareness” among the players since he first started off.
“The present generation is much more aware. The boys have more knowledge of what to do and what not to. They are willing to take care of themselves and their nutrition,” he stated.