The game is the first international to be staged in the metropolis since 1955…
The contest will be played out under the lights at the city’s new Mumbai Football Arena at the Andheri Sport Complex. It is also an important dress rehearsal for the 18,000-seater venue as it is slated to host all the home matches of Mumbai City FC in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League .
The CONCAF side are ranked 114th as per the latest FIFA rankings and speaking ahead of the game Indian shot-stopper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said it is vital for the Blue Tigers to continually compete against better teams.
“Puerto Rico are a good side as per the rankings. But we are ready for the battle and will give everything on the field. We should play more teams like them to build our confidence,” said Sandhu.
The captain for tomorrow’s game also lavished praise on the facilities in Mumbai. ““I am very pleased with the facilities over here. The ground is good. In fact, we need stadia like this in India which are not that big and where the pitch is closer to the stands.”
13 of the 27 players assembled inn Mumbai are under the age of 23. Indeed, except for Sunil Chhetri, Subrata Paul, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Arnab Mondal and Narayan Das , none of the other players had ever played an international match prior to Stephen Constantine taking over.
In his pre-match press conference India boss Constantine stressed on the need to build squad depth. “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,” he explained.
The Head Coach also stated that his young squad are eager to learn and improve. “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 them and they pick things up quite quickly. But you need to be repetitive,” Constantine added.
Sunil Chhetri, India ’s all-time leading goalscorer in international football said today’s youngsters were more professional and understood what they had to do.
Constantine also praised tomorrow’s opposition saying they were a quality side. “They are a good side with many good players. 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 the USA they split open the rival defence with three touches.”
Asked whether his team would adopt a conservative approach against their more reputed opponents the Indian manager was unequivocal. There will be no change to our approach. We will play in the same manner as we played against Iran. We will play attacking football.”
The South Americans may be highly ranked but they come into this one with their own set of problems. They have lost their last two games against the Domican Republic and will be missing three of their stars including Hector Ramos, Jorge Rivera and Joseph Marrero as they have club commitments despite it being an international break in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Their coach Carlos Cantarero has not travelled with them to the Subcontinent. If that wasn’t enough, it is understood the team missed their connecting flight in New York and will only arrive in town late this evening barely 24 hours before kick-off. This means they will almost certainly be jetlagged and it leaves them very little time to acclimatize or take in a practice session.
Mike Ramos, who is yet to open his account for his country will be expected to lead the attack with Manolo Sanchez or the 18-year-old Karlos Ferre as his strike partner. Despite recent setbacks, the team would be looking to get back to winning ways to boost their preparations for the upcoming Caribbean Cup qualification campaign.
India probable Starting XI: Gurpreet Singh Sndhu, Rino Anto, Arnab Mondal, Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Pronay Halder, Jackichand Singh, Sumit Passi Sunil Chettri, Jeje Lalprekhlua.
Match: India Vs Puerto Rico
Venue: Mumbai Football Arena , Mumbai
Time: 08:00 pm IST
The game will be telecast Live on Star Sports 2 and Start Sports HD 2. It will be screencast on the Hotstar app. You can also follow Live text commentary of the game on www.khelnow.com
Preview by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.