AFC Asian Cup qualifiers: India ‘ready to give their best’ even as it’s ‘advantage’ Laos

Jeje Subrata PaulVIENTIANE (LAOS): Reality: Some 24 hours later the match kicks-off. Some five days after that, the return leg kicks-off.

Threat: If you return empty-handed, there may be a vacuum.

Motivation: To keep Indian Football in the mainstream of the largest Continent of the World and in contention for a berth in the FC 2019 Asian Cup in UAE, you have to win -- at any cost.

Peep into the National Team Camp and it won’t be hard to discover the mood. Not that everything at the moment is green. There are almost 11 Players ruled out, six of whom, National Coach Stephen Constantine feels would have “started against Laos.”

“A number of our key Players are unfortunately injured. In fact, in our last practice session, we lost another promising youngster who might have started,” he said in the Official pre-match Press Conference. “But there’s no point looking back and crying. We are ready with what we have.”

‘Ready with what we have,’ – it defines the attitude, the mentality, the spirit. It’s the patch on which the new-look squad prefers to walk on, and walk with authority.

“Every Team plays to win. We will play hard. Some of our Players may be playing their first International match but I believe in their abilities,” he adds.

Captain Sunil Chhetri, who has had some idea of Laos’ Football while playing for Bengaluru FC against Laos Toyota FC mentioned “they are a good side.”

“Some of my Teammates have been in Laos before but for me this is the first time. 7-8 Players of Laos Toyota FC played against Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup. The first time, they won 2-1; the second time, we won 2-1. It will not be an easy game,” he certified. “We look forward to take as much information from Coach and give our best on the field.”

Vientiane is a nice and clean City. The tuk-tuk drivers look at you curiously when you pass by, couples holding hands and chatting in the Parks also try to figure out which sport the squad is associated with. On the streets when you pass the temporary stalls, the unmistakable smell of Thai soups tempt you to give it a try.

The AFC U-14 Regional Girls Championship is on and the AFC contingent have got invitations to watch the match from the stands. The localites mention there is a quite a sizeable Indian population in the City who may also drop in to cheer.

Constantine mentions about the misleading trend to “judge Teams by their FIFA Rankings.”

“There’s a tendency to judge Teams by FIFA Rankings. But we know that Laos have some good Players whom we watched in AFC Cup against Bengaluru FC. On top of that they would be playing at Home. So we expect it to be difficult,” he adds.

Valakone Phomphukdy, Head Coach, Laos, nevertheless, admitted that playing at Home “serves as an advantage.”

“Our Friendly against Nepal was good. It helped us to test our strategy as to what we need to do against India. We have had some two weeks’ preparation for this match. Playing at Home serves as an advantage. Some of our Players have had the experience of playing against Bengaluru FC,” he stated.

“We have been mentally preparing ourselves as to what it means to win for your Country,” he said.

2014 AIFF Player of the Year Eugeneson Lyngdoh stressed on the importance of the match. “It’s a very important match for India’s Football history. We want to see the National Team competing against the best in Asia for the next two-three years and unless we get something from this match, the door may close. For us to go forward, it’s do or die,” he quipped.

The sentiment stays the same when you walk into each of the rooms. ‘Give your Best.’

The kick-off at the National Stadium in Laos tomorrow (June 2) is at 6.30pm (5pm IST).

By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team