FIFA World Cup Qualifier: We'll play to win says Constantine as India face stern test against Turkmenistan

Sunil Chhetri sweats it out during practice ahead of India Turkmenistan matchKOCHI: For an exhaustive development of the National Team of any country the young must replace the seasoned in manner that the equilibrium of experience and technicality in the squad is not disturbed.

With 23 new Players having debuted during Head Coach Stephen Constantine’s tenure in the last one year, an injury struck Indian National Team faces a stern test of their equilibrium when the ‘Men in Blue’ clash swords against Turkmenistan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, Kerala on Tuesday (March 29, 2016).

Speaking at the official pre-match press conference head coach Stephen Constantine stayed wary of Turkmenistan’s threat. “Turkmenistan are a very good side and stealing a point against Iran away is a statement of their abilities” he said referring to Turkmenistan holding Iran in a Group League match.

“However we will give our cent percent on the pitch as always and even though Turkmenistan are difficult opponents we will play to win.”

As part of his philosophy Coach Constantine has handed debuts to the young talents of Indian Football in recent months -- the latest being the 19-year old Udanta Singh grabbing his first cap in India’s last match against Iran.

“The door to the National Team is open to anybody and everybody if they can help the squad, work hard and contribute to it,” Constantine maintained, only to add after a brief pause: “Everybody is welcome as long as they do what is required of them.”

“I will never stop looking for Players as you cannot build a Team in one year. It is a process in continuation and we have more or less achieved the targets that we had set out in the beginning. My aim is to build something that will last for 3 or 4 years.”

Looking at Udanta, sitting next, Constantine certified: “Udanta handled the pressure very well and gave a good account of himself against Iran. He needs to keep his feet on the ground and has a long way to go.”

The shy 19-year old, admitted it was a “memorable moment” to have made his debut at the Azadi Stadium in Iran against the ‘Giants of Asia.’

“It was a dream come true to make my debut against Iran. Matches such as these help you develop into a better Player and inject confidence in you,” the former AIFF Academy colt stated.

The equilibrium of the young and the seasoned will be put under the scanner as India are without the services of 2015 AIFF Player of The Year Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Striker Robin Singh; and talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri is only half fit despite training with the squad over the last couple of days.

“We will take a last minute call on Sunil Chhetri. Although he has improved it will be a last minute decision to play him or not,” Constantine informed. “He (Sunil Chhetri) is a great captain and a great leader. Obviously we will miss his services if he does not play tomorrow.”

Jeje Lalpekhlua who had led the squad in the match against Iran at the Azadi Stadium highlighted the positive side of 23 Players having made their International debut in the last one year.

“It’s good for the future of Indian Football. Our Team is young and therefore we have a lot to learn and develop together as a single unit. It is good for the future of Indian Football that young Players are being involved in the National setup,” the former Indian Arrows’ Striker pronounced.

Reflecting on India’s World Cup Qualifying campaign so far Constantine quipped: “As a Team we have learnt a lot in the Qualifiers. We played well against Oman, but the result did not sway in our favour. We cannot do something about where we are but can only keep our focus to the match at hand. And playing in India for India is motivation enough for the Players to perform.

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan’s Head Coach Amangylyc Kocumow said: “India are a very good and fast team with very good Players. We are expecting a tough clash against them.”

The match will be telecast live on Sony Six from 6pm.

By Joseph Solomon,
AIFF Media Team