Category: International

India, North Korea, Syria and Tajikistan to take part in second edition of Intercontinental Cup in Bengaluru

NEW DELHI: All India Football Federation confirms the participation of Syria, DPR Korea, and Tajikistan as the participating teams of the second edition of the Hero Intercontinental Cup from July 7-17, 2019 at Shree Kanteerva Stadium in Bengaluru.

The Blue Tigers come into the competition as defending champions, having won the inaugural edition in June last year after defeating Kenya in the final, courtesy a brace from the Hero of the Tournament, Sunil Chhetri. New Zealand, and Chinese Taipei were the other two teams in the fray.

AIFF General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das mentioned that the forthcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup will be an “acid test” for the Blue Tigers ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers which kick-off in September 2019.

“The AIFF and their partners FSDL have finalised an annual calendar for the Men’s National Team. In June, the National Team is scheduled to participate in the King’s Cup in Thailand where we play Curaçao in our first match, and then either Vietnam or Thailand. These matches will hold us in good stead for the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers starting in September 2019,” he stated.

“I need to thank the respective Football Federations of Syria, Tajikistan, and DPR Korea for agreeing to come over for the four-nation event,” Mr. Das added.

All the four teams will be playing each other in a round robin phase, with the top two teams qualifying for the final.

India bow out of AFC U-23 Championships qualifiers

TASHKENT: The Indian U-23 National Team ended their AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers campaign with a 2-0 loss to Tajikistan in their second match of the group stage at the Pakhtakor stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan today (March 24, 2019).

Daler Yodgorov’s 30th minute strike and Solehov’s 85th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign ending without a point out of a maximum six.

The opponents had mounted a barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match, trying to unsettle the Indian defence but some astute goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh kept them at bay. In the 10th minute, the custodian made a fine save to deny the opponents an early breakthrough.

India could have surged ahead into lead in the 12th minute but Sarthak Golui’s header off a Komal Thatal free-kick failed to find the net, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines; courtesy of an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound.

After a nervy start, the Indian team found themselves some bright spots and in the 27th minute, Rahim Ali found Komal Thatal inside the box. With defenders closing in, Komal could only launch the ball over the woodwork in an attempt to give India the lead.

India’s attacking momentum was short-lived as Tajikistan took the lead in the 30th minute with Daler finding the back of the India net from inside the box.

Attempting to find the equalizer before half-time, Rahim Ali went on a run down the middle and found Anirudh Thapa, whose shot was blocked by the Tajik defence line.

The urgency for the equalizer for India kept them on their toes and soon after the second half re-started, India cajoled an opportunity in the 48th minute. Rahim Ali brought the ball down inside the box and passed it to an onrushing Abdul Sahal, who failed to hit the target from outside the box.

Restricting the opponents in the half for much of the second half, India had a chance in the 60th minute and once again it fell to Sarthak Golui, who this time headed wide from a Vinit Rai free-kick.

India tried to keep Tajikistan on the defence and score the equalizer but could not find the decisive goal. Tajikistan held on to their slender lead and committed bodies in defence. The opponents scored through Solehov in the 85th minute and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read 2-0 in their favour. 

India lose to Uzbekistan in AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers opener

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN: India suffered a 0-3 loss at the hands of defending champions Uzbekistan in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday, March 22. 

Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov put the home team in front via a first-half penalty, before second-halfsubstitute Bobir Abdixolikov netted twice in the last 10 minutes to take the game away from the Blue Tigers. 

India started creating chances early on, as Rahul KP was played through on the flank by Anwar Ali. The Keralite attacker put in a cross, but Daniel could not connect with it in time. 

However, Uzbekistan started pressing high up the pitch after the initial exchanges, and they got a good chance around the half-hour mark when Alijanov Ilkhomjon was played through inside the six-yard-box by Amonov Azizbek, but Vinit Rai stepped in with the crucial block. 

Uzbekistan laid the proverbial siege on the Indian third ahead of the half time break, but the Indian defence held on for dear life, with Anwar Ali making some brave interceptions deep inside the penalty area. 

Their efforts finally paid off in injury time of the first half, when Uzbekistan were awarded a penalty. Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov made no mistake, as he slotted it into the bottom corner to put the home side in the lead. 

That game wind in the Uzbek sails and the home side came out with more attacking intent in the second half. Chances were at a premium for India, and Daniel had another opportunity to score, when substitute Komal Thatal, who had come on for Rahul KP, crossed it towards him. However, Daniel could not get onto the end of the cross, and the chance went begging. 

India centreback Gaurav Bora dug out a couple of important interceptions in the second half, helping out goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who was caught off his line, but Bobir Abdixolikov eventually doubled the lead with a little over 10 minutes of regulation time left. 

Five minutes later, Abdixolikov made it 3-0 for the home side, ending Indian hopes of a comeback. KomalThatal lit up the eyes of the Indian fans with a jinking run from the left wing, as he cut inside and let one rip, but his shot thudded off the woodwork. 

India are set to play their final qualifier against Tajikistan on Sunday, March 24.

Depleted India put up an inspiring fight in Amman

AMMAN (JORDAN): A penalty save, and a rare misjudgement from Indian Goalkeeper and Captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and a sublime strike from debutante Nishu Kumar defined India’s 1-2 loss to a strong Jordan team in the International Friendly at the King Abdullah II International Stadium in Amman on Saturday (November 17).

The Indians were forced to play without regular striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, experienced striker Balwant Singh and the two regular wingers – Udanta Singh and Halicharan Narzary — as all of them were yet to recover after from their hectic travel to Amman, which included a 32-hour halt at the Kuwait International Airport after air traffic was suspended owing to thunderstorms and torrential rain.

Jordan seized the initiative and kicked-off like almost a dream as they earned a penalty in the 7th minute.

But Indian Goalkeeper and Captain, the Albatross under the bar, guessed it right. Even as Bani Atiyeh ran in with cheers from the stands expecting him to put it past Sandhu, the latter stooped low to his right to palm it, and then even managed to get himself in between to deny the rebound.

Inspired, the depleted Indians chased and ran all over, the Jordanians finding it hard to break them down. The perseverance earned India their first corner-kick in the 21st minute but Vinit Rai failed to read the bounce of the loose ball and it cost him a decent try to lob it over the rival Goalkeeper Shafi who had come out of his line.

Even as the Jordanians tried to counter and Pronay Halder went into the referee’s books the very next minute, little did anyone imagine that failing to read the bounce would earn Jordan their first goal, that too from Goalkeeper Shafi.

Quite a fairy tale as it may sound, Shafi enacted it in reality. One of his long kicks sailed over the Indian defence and bounced. Initially, even as it may have looked a normal one, the bounce turned vicious as Gurpreet, who was out of his line misjudged it, and despite his desperate attempt to keep it away, it went in to give Jordan the lead.

It was so ironic for Gurpreet, a mixed bag of joy and despair within a span of 17 miniutes.

The hosts didn’t allow the momentum to slip and could have doubled the lead in the 43rd minute but Faisal, all in the clear failed to tap in a Haddad cross.

Changing over, Haddad felt best not to rely on any and finished off a brilliant counter-attack to double the lead for Jordan in the 59th minute.

Head Coach Stephen Constantine brought in two changes introducing Ashique Kuruniyan in place of Jerry Lalrinzuala and then Nishu Kumar made his International debut coming in for Jackichand Singh.

And the debutant scored within minutes!

Germanpreet Singh managed to get one into the box and Anirudh Thapa who was fielded as a striker managed to draw away his marker to allow space for Nishu who was lurking behind to bang it in. Nishu didn’t disappoint.

In the 73rd minute, Jordan earned a free-kick in the zone, just outside India’s 18-yard box. But Faisal’s placement hit the wall and got diverted for a corner.

Thapa had a try in the 81st minute when he pounced on a loose ball outside the box but his curler hit a rival defender on the way.

With the International Friendly allowing 6 official changes, Constantine went for a double substitution — Sumeet Passi coming in for Thapa, and Narayan Das substituting Germanpreet.

Jordan survived a scare in the 87th minute when Narayan’s corner was flicked at the near post by Passi but a diving Halder just failed to make the touch. It was so close yet to far.

India overcome extraordinary odds to play Jordan friendly

AMMAN: The international friendly between India and Jordan will go ahead as scheduled, despite the team having to battle extraordinary odds in order to get themselves ready for the match. Seven members of the Indian squad were left stranded at the Kuwait International Airport for over 32 hours owing to heavy thunderstorm and rain but have finally managed to reach Amman.

Torrential downpour, along with lightning and thunder, caused heavy flooding in Kuwait City which resulted in several flights being delayed. Seven India squad members, which included the likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Manvir Singh, Sumeet Passi, Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary and Ashique Kuruniyan had to wait for over 32 hours at the Kuwait International Airport en route to Amman. Several members of the support staff were also left stranded along with the players.

On reaching Amman, their luggage, including players’ kits, team equipment and personal belongings, also went missing at the airport, adding to their woes. Stephen Constantine and co. face a stern challenge against a strong Jordan side playing at home, even without these additional difficulties. However, despite the adversities, the team has decided to go ahead with the match – one deemed as a crucial part of their preparations for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Constantine announces 22-member squad for friendly with China

NEW DELHI: Coach Stephen Constantine announced his 22-member squad for India’s first-ever International fixture in China which is scheduled at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Suzhou City on October 13, 2018. Kick-off is at IST 17:05 Hrs.

As informed by coach Constantine earlier this evening, Balwant Singh had to be dropped from the squad because of some unavoidable circumstances. As his passport will expire in less than 6 months, he was denied the Chinese Visa.

Out of the 17 face-offs between these two sides so far, the Red Dragons have won on 12 occasions. The rest of the five matches ended in a stalemate.

During the media interaction at the JLN Stadium before departure on Tuesday night, Constantine mentioned that although the match was labelled as a ‘Friendly’, it is a serious affair for the entire team.

“Friendly or no-friendly, it’s the India National Team. It’s only a friendly game for the world but not us.”

Meanwhile, the two national teams are going to lock horns after a prolonged gap of 21 years. In the last meeting, which took place in the Nehru Cup in Kochi in 1997, China pipped India 2-1.

The 22-member squad is as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Karanjit Singh.

DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Sarthak Golui, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Subhasish Bose, Narayan Das.

MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Pronay Halder, Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa, Vinit Rai, Halicharan Narzary, Ashique Kuruniyan.

FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sumeet Passi, Farukh Choudhary.

13 U23 players summoned by Constantine for two-days camp before Friendly against China

NEW DELHI: Thirteen U-23 players who were part of the Indian squad in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 last month have been summoned by National coach Stephen Constantine for the camp in New Delhi as part of the Senior National Team’s preparation for the International Friendly against PR China.
India are slated to play PR China on October 13, 2018 at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, the kick-off of which is at IST 5.05pm.
The 29-member squad will assemble in the Capital for the 2-day camp before they leave for China on October 10, 2018.
This is the first time the Senior National Team is travelling to China to play in an International match. The two sides last met in the Nehru Cup in Kochi back in 1997.
In order to prepare for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, India are slated to play a few International friendlies in the coming months and the coach feels “this are the kind of games we need.”
“China are a strong team and the match will be a tough test for us. But we need to play these sort of games right now. Getting to play under pressure is important and an away fixture in China is exactly the kind of game we need,” he stated. “Hopefully everyone stays free from injury as it’s going to be an important game for the build-up to the AFC Asian Cup in January.”


The 29-member squad summoned for the preparatory camp is as follows:


GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith, Amrinder Singh, Karanjeet Singh.


DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Sarthak Golui, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Subhasish Bose, Narayan Das.


MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Pronay Halder, Rowllin Borges, Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Souvik Chakraborti, Vinit Rai, Halicharan Narzary, Bikash Jairu, Ashique Kuruniyan, Lallianzuala Chhangte.


FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Sumeet Passi, Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary.

Boys wanted to win it and we did it, says Chhetri

MUMBAI: Moments after India lifted the Intercontinental Cup courtesy a splendid Sunil Chhetri performance, Stephen Constantine, Head Coach, Indian National Team praised the team for their character on the field and touting the victory as a “win for Indian Football.”

“We really deserved to win this Cup and the players showed amazing character on the pitch in the final. This is a win for Indian Football. The work rate of the players was phenomenal and we showed how tough we are,” the coach said.

The Intercontinental Cup was memorable for skipper Sunil Chhetri as he not only earned his 100th International Cap and scored seven goals in four matches thus equalling Argentina’s Lionel Messi’s record of 64 goals in International Football.

“The boys wanted to win the tournament and we did it. It is a very important win for us and Indian Football in general,” Chhetri stated. “Kenya were trying to pressure us is in the second half but we showed phenomenal character to play as a team and thwart them away.”

The skipper meanwhile has already turned his eyes towards the AFC Asian Cup. “Everything we do is about the AFC Asian Cup. The AFC Asian Cup is what we are preparing for and this tournament helped us in our preparation for that,” Chhetri added.

“I am trying to play as an example and reciprocate to everyone, trying to encourage each other in our quest for the AFC Asian Cup.”

Intercontinental Cup 2018: India beat Kenya to clinch title

MUMBAI: India beat Kenya to clinch the title in the 2018 Intercontinental Cup at Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.

Skipper Sunil Chhetri continued his brilliant form scoring two exquisite goals in the first-half to inspire India to a 2-0 victory in the final.

The performance was a perfect response by Stephen Constantine’s men, who have come under scrutiny after their 2-1 loss against New Zealand in their last league game.

Constantine, who decided to rest some of his key players against the All Whites, named the strongest possible side for the final with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan, Pronoy Halder, Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary and Jeje Lalpekhlua all handed starts.

On the other hand, Constantine’s counterpart, Sebastian Migne made two changes to the starting line-up that faced Chinese Taipei, with Kenneth Muguna and Bernard Olinga replacing Miheso Cliffton and Duncan Otieno respectively.

India enjoy ball possession from the early stages of the game as they looked for an early goal in the game. The first clear chance came in the 5th minute when Jeje received a long ball from midfield, but had been flagged for offside as it looked the Mizo striker was through.

The Blue Tigers’ blistering start was to pay dividends in the 8th minute when Chhetri showed great composure to slot past Patrick Matasi from Anirudh Thapa’s free-kick.

India then took control of the match and looked dangerous every time they pushed forward and Udanta tried to curl the ball into the top corner, but Matasi produced a fine save to deny the winger.

Meanwhile, Harambee Stars continued to commit defensive mistakes and they were again punished by Chhetri, who pounced on to a long ball from the back by Jhingan and beat Matasi from close range to make it 2-0 to India just before the half-hour mark.

India thereafter continued to dominate proceedings creating multiple chances but Kenya contained the rampant Blue Tigers until the Sri Lankan referee blew the half-time whistle and the score was 2-0 to the home side.

Changing over, the Harambee Stars were shocked back into action and began to control the momentum of the game with Ovella Ochieng was able to force Gurpreet into a great save with a long-range shot in the 53rd minute.

Gurpreet had more work to do seven minutes later as he had to come off his line to clear when defender Jockins Otieno was through.

India defended too deep as they looked to launch counter attacks but Kenya nearly scored through substitute John Makwata, whose effort narrowly missed the target in the 74th minute.

Thereafter, the Harambee Stars were on top of their game and dominated their opponents in the ensuing minutes, but India did well to protect their gains and emerged champions.

Blue Pilgrims paint the Mumbai Football Arena blue

MUMBAI: Even as dark clouds hover over Mumbai and thunder crashes with steady rain, a blanket of royal blue covers the stands of Andheri Sports Complex reflecting undying passion and most importantly the relentlessness to battle the rain to support the Nation.

At a time when on maybe all in Mumbai would prefer to stay indoors to stay away from the wet, the Pilgrims, consisting of fans across all Football Clubs in India feel a bit different – they prefer to flock to the Mumbai Football Arena the day before to create something special for the Team.

“We are making something that has never been done in Indian football before. We will be putting a 3D Tifo on display tomorrow for the final,” informs Waseem Ahmed, one of the key members. “It will be magnificent. This is our way of showing our support and cheering for the team.”

From a distance you see some of them completely drenched, their wet T’Shirts, pants and shoes. But they stay engrossed with the paint and the brushes. There’s a senior artist who is working on the sketch and everyone wants to play their part. They say, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’ but surely not this time.

You move around to talk to them. They greet you but stay unwilling to get their names published. “Behind the scenes, that’s our workplace,” is the generic sentiment. “We are the pilgrims, not individual stars.”

The biggest star of the country, however, salutes the Pilgrims. National Team Captain Sunil Chhetri says: “They are absolutely brilliant.”

After a pause, the man adds: “There are some 300 or more travelling fans. They are struggling for accommodation and are coming from all parts of the Country. Mind you, most of them are college students and maybe don’t have the money. But their passion surpasses everything.”

Right from the Viking clap to the ‘Vande Maatram’ from the ‘Sunil Chhetri poster’ to the ‘Inqualab-e-Indian Football banner,’ the Pilgrims are the perfect example that fans can actually rally behind the team as the 12th man.

Come the summit clash, the drums will be out as will the banners. They will always be there to cheer for their heroes. As they said in chorus: “Results don’t matter. We are part of the upward movement, that is Indian Football.