BENGALURU: “We can’t let the opportunity slip. We have to win tomorrow’s game and there’s no alternative from working harder and harder,” Captain Marvel Sunil Chhetri said in the pre-match press conference before taking on Macau in the fourth match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru tomorrow (October 11, 2017).
“We are going through a good run but we can’t afford to take tomorrow’s game lightly. We have to get it going and make it count. We need three points,” Chhetri stated.
Coach Stephen Constantine also preferred to speak in the same tone referring to the match against Macau as a “crucial one.”
“We’re very close to qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup but we’re still not there. We can’t think about anything but getting a positive result. We respect every opponent and our philosophy won’t change against Macau too,” Constantine stated.
“We have refurbished the team. The average age of the National Team is around 24. The World Cup qualification stage was a learning curve for us and now we’re just one breath away from the AFC Asian Cup. That’s what we have achieved and I believe, we have built a team for next 4-5 years at least,” Stephen Constantine maintained.
On being asked what Sunil Chhetri undergoes to keep the fitness level at par with the younger bunch of players, Chhetri quipped: “I don’t do anything special, trust me. Playing for my country is the biggest motivation for me and it keeps driving me always. I won’t let anyone take my place just for the sake of it. I will keep working hard day in and day out and fight for my place in the team.”
In the away fixture the men in Blue had to toil really hard to breach the resilient Macau defense until Balwant Singh hit the target twice. Chhetri referred to that and stated that ‘Macau is not to be taken lightly anytime.’
“We have worked on our strategies. Yes, we struggled there. We had to work hard to penetrate them. In no way, we can take them lightly. We did work on our mistakes and I hope we’ll implement them on the pitch tomorrow.”
“The AFC Asian Cup is massive. It’s the biggest tournament which an Asian team can play. But, as gaffer said, it’s not done yet. In my playing career of 14 years, I have been in this situation before. We are taking the game with the same philosophy. Now, our only focus is to qualify. Once we do, we will surely cherish the memory.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Constantine informed that he has no injury worries and his full squad is ready to give it a shot tomorrow.
Macau Head coach Chan Hiu Ming rated the Stephen Constantine-coached side very highly at the pre-match press conference. “India are the better team undoubtedly. We’re trying to close the gaps. They have quite a few great players, like 11 (Sunil Chhetri) and others. We’ll give our best and it’s going to be a great experience for my boys.”
The match is scheduled to kick-off at 7.30pm.