Category: Intercontinental Cup 2018

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.

The final will be a different result, stresses Harambee Stars coach Migne

MUMBAI: Sometimes revenge has been the norm of football — the passion fueled with avenging a previous defeat rages like nothing other in an attempt to conquer the foe.

Ahead of Kenya’s summit clash against hosts India in the Intercontinental Cup slated to be played at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday Sebastian Migne, Head Coach of the Kenyan National Team said: “We will be out looking for a win against India. Although there is no revenge against any player, we would like to defeat India in the final.”

“I wanted to play the hosts in the final and I am happy that my players will be facing the team they lost to. But this time around it will be a different result,” he predicted.

The Harambee Stars had gone down 0-3 to India in the group league match, which incidentally was also Indian National Team Captain Sunil Chhetri’s 100th International match.

“We will go all out to win the Intercontinental Cup,” Migne stated.

One of the most senior players of the Kenyan National Team Jockins Atudo also reiterated the result will be “different” this time around.

“This time around it will be a different result — you just wait and see. We will play to beat India in India,” Atudo maintained.

Referring back to the 0-3 defeat against India, Migne quipped: “We were very much in the game till it was 0-0. We had two good chances to put the match to bed but we failed to take our chances and that is what happens when you don’t take your chances.”

“The penalty changed the game,” he explained. “We learnt our lessons and we have bolstered our ranks. But India has a really strong team that will test the best of our abilities.”

Our primary target is to win the tournament: Constantine

MUMBAI: A day prior to the much-awaited Intercontinental Cup final against Kenya, Indian National Team Head Coach Stephen Constantine stressed all that happened in the round robin stage “done and dusted” and the final is going to be a “new challenge.”

“What we did in the round robin stage is done and dusted but we cannot take anything for granted in the final. Kenya have shown what they are capable of, especially from set-piece positions. We totally respect them but at the same time our primary target is to win the tournament,” Constantine said at the official pre-match press conference at the Mumbai Football Arena today (June 9, 2018).

The final match is scheduled at the same venue tomorrow. The match which will kick-off at 8 pm.

The last time the two teams met in the group league stage, India had run away to emerge victors 3-0 after a goalless first-half. A brace from captain Sunil Chhetri in his 100th International match and a rasper from fellow striker Jeje Lalpekhlua had settled the issue for India on the day.

Won’t the victory provide India with a psychological advantage?

“The round robin stage is history now. We will start afresh tomorrow and try to win it,” Constantine maintained. “We had qualified after the first two games and it was important for us to give the other players an opportunity to play.”

Meanwhile, there are dark clouds overhead and there a forecast of torrential downpours tomorrow as well.

Former AIFF Academy cadet Anirudh Thapa who was also present at the press conference felt India need to “adapt to the condition faster.”

“We have to quickly adapt to the situation and will play accordingly. If there is water on the pitch, we have to adjust accordingly. The situation against Kenya was challenging but we coped up well. We’ll try to do the same tomorrow,” he quipped.

Meanwhile, Constantine cracked a joke that players “who can swim” will get a chance in the final.

“The players who can swim will get a chance tomorrow,” he laughed. “Jokes apart, the weather is something which we can’t control. I hope the ground condition improves. Whatever it is, we have to play according to the situation.”

Constantine picked up Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika and Thapa for special mention.

“This guy (pointing to Anirudh Thapa) has been outstanding so far. He can play in more than one position. If you talk of Pronay Halder, he can play as a defensive midfielder as well as a defender. The same applies for Dhanapal Ganesh as well who’s unfortunately ill. Also, Jerry can play as the left-back as well as upwards,” he pronounced. “The two central defenders in Sandesh (Jhingan) and Anas (Edathodika) have been outstanding for us and it is something we are happy about. You have to put the right people in the right place and this is what we are trying to do.”

“What we focus on is the work rate and the boy sitting next to me (Anirudh Thapa) has been terrific in his work rate. That’s the kind of player we need in this Indian National Team,” the coach clarified.

Intercontinental Cup 2018: Kenya ease Chinese Taipei to setup India final

MUMBAI: New Zealand have been knocked out of the Intercontinental Cup, after Kenya defeated Chinese Taipei 4-0 tonight to advance on goal difference.

The New Zealand side, who were impressive in their 2-1 win over the Blue Tigers last night, watched the match as a team which Kenya required a win of three goals or more to stay in the tournament.

The Harambee Stars achieved that with Odhiambo Dennis, Jockins Atudo (2) and Timothy Otieno all finding the back of the net in the second-half to book Kenya’s place in the final against India on Sunday at Mumbai Football Arena.

Odhiambo sent Kenya ahead in the 51st minute from close range following a corner kick by Ovella Ochieng.

Atudo then doubled Kenya’s lead only two minutes later from the spot after Piston Mutamba had been brought down in the box by Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Wen-Chieh Pan.

Otieno made it 3-0 in the 68th minute, latching onto a lose ball after Pan failed to clear his lines. A fourth would then come from Atudo with six minutes left on the clock.

Kenya consequently ends the four nation tourney placed second with six points, similar to New Zealand, but with a superior goal difference.

Intercontinental Cup 2018: All Whites stun Blue Tigers

MUMBAI: The left-foot of a 19-year old player of Indian origin Sarpreet Singh spurred New Zealand to a deserving 2-1 victory over India in the Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. Singh didn’t score but set up the two goals besides tormenting the Indians all throughout, right from the first minute itself.

A lucky goal from Sunil Chhetri has put India into the lead in the 48th minute but the Kiwis first restored parity through Andre Jong while substitute John Dyer sealed the fate in the 86th minute. Both Teams finished their league engagements on 6 points each.

The first-half saw New Zealand dominating all throughout and coming close but the Indians soaked in all the pressure, didn’t open up and managed to hold on. The trend continued even in the second and though the Indians fought back, New Zealand stayed the better team.

India made seven changes to the starting line-up from their last match against Kenya and that cost them dear. Three crosses in the first two minutes by Singh threatened to open up the Indian defence. But even as all of them dipped alarmingly, the defence didn’t allow the Kiwis to pull the trigger.

Perhaps, that was the indication of the things to come – the New Zealand gameplan.

The first card of the game came out in the 8th minute when Jai Ingham was booked for an off-the ball infringement on Ashique Kuruniyan.

It was evident the Kiwis had come with a strategy of ruffling the Indian defence with quick crosses and their first shy at the Indian goal came in the 12th minute but Andre Jong’s header sailed over. The Indian midfield looked awry and it allowed New Zealand to take it over.

With Md. Rafique playing in an unusual position on the right flank, the right side wasn’t quite functional in comparison to the previous two matches. Frustrated a bit, Narayan Das picked up a yellow card in the 15th minute.

The cheers went a bit louder in the 22nd minute when rival Goalkeeper Michael Woud fumbled a routine gathering allowing captain Sunil Chhetri to get it on the rebound. But an alert Woud managed to narrow it down and avert any danger.

Sarpreet was again at his menacing best in the 26th minute dipping another one which Ashique managed to head out. The next minute, rival captain Cameron Neru’s shot narrowly missed the mark.

The first change for India came in the 27th minute – Udanta Singh running onto the field to replace Rafique on the right flank. The Kiwis, meanwhile, continued to dominate dipping in those vicious crosses regularly — Sarpreet narrowly being denied in the 34th minute.

Had not Amrinder denied Nikko Boxall’s sharp header off the resultant corner, the Kiwis would have surged into the lead. Off the next build-up, Andre Jong, all in the clear, missed a free header — Sarpreet being the provider again. The Indians were clearly having problems dealing the nimble footed Sarpreet.

Frustration continued to creep in and in the 41st minute, Subhasish Bose picked up a yellow card for a bringing down Myer Bevan.

India didn’t come up with a promising counter-attack led by Chhetri. But after the one-two between Chetri and Udanta had initiated promise, Ashique couldn’t get past his marker in the box allowing the rival defence to recover fast.

In the 44th minute, Chhetri’s anticipation from no-where almost put India in the but even as he followed Balwant’s pass, his prompt volley just sailed over. That was India’s sole chance in the first-half as both sides headed to the interval locked goalless.

Changing over, India came up with three changes — Jeje Lelpekhlua was introduced – his 50th International match for India as he came in for Balwant; while Halicharan Narzary and Pronay Halder replaced Borges and Kuruniyan respectively.

India plucked up a goal from nowhere when in the 48th minute to surge into the lead when Chhetri followed by a back-pass to Woud and the latter’s clearance hit Chhetri’s outstretched leg and rolled into the net.

The joy, however, was short-lived. Sarpreet came up with a delectable pass to set Andre Jong in the clear who gleefully slotted it past Amrinder to restore parity off the next attack in the 49th minute.

In the 55th minute Bevan’s feint disbalanced Salam and Kotal had to plunge into a desperate tackle to deny him taking a shot but even as the referee pointed for a free-kick just at the edge of the box, the Indian wall stood in between.

Sarpreet, meanwhile was continuously creating ripples in the wings and every time he had the ball, there was a threat loomed.

In the 68th minute Chhetri tried to find someone in the box off a free-kick but the crowd of legs didn’t allow Halder to have a crack.

Halder’s inclusion did add the cushion in the midfield as his defensive qualities provided an insulation to the makeshift central defence, a quality which wasn’t present in the first-half. In the process it allowed Chhetri more share of the ball trying to open up the rival defence working in tandem with Udanta, Jeje and Halicharan. But the Kiwi defence was too tight to be torn apart.

The Kiwis who were constantly pressing were eventually rewarded in the 86th minute — this time too Sarpreet laying John Dyer on a platter to tap it past Amrinder.

He Urged and They Responded

MUMBAI: Last year in the mid-August there were few football fans marching towards the Mumbai Football Arena just below the DN Nagar Metro station in Andheri – the Mumbai suburb area in an unexpected rain. There were few people travelling through that route were discussing among themselves ‘itne barish me ye pagal log konsa match dekhne ja rahe hai bhai’ (In this heavy rain, which match these mad people are going to watch? It was obvious. It was neither a cricket match nor a Kabaddi match. It was a football match and that too, a friendly match.

The 2017 Hero Tri-Nation Series between host India, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Mauritius was held by All India Football Federation (AIFF) on a short notice where India lacked the availability of Sunil Chhetri who has a commitment with his club Bengaluru FC. And it was not surprising that spectators in the stadium were hardly few hundred.

In India, if you ask a kid which is your favourite sports, the automatic answer will be cricket. Though it may vary from city to city, but cricket is the most followed sports in India. There are few other sports which Indian sports follow like Kabaddi, Soccer (not India football, mostly European leagues), WWE and some other. But when it comes to Indian football, it always remains unnoticeable.

Sunil Chhetri, Indian football’s modern-day idol, begged eagerly to Indian fans to turn up and they did. On the historic occasion of his 100th cap for blue jersey, he appealed fans through social media and there were almost no seats vacant in the stands on Mondayevening at the Mumbai Football Arena. It was the first rain in the city and crowd were enjoying every drop of the rain with heroics of Chhetri and his blue army. Chhetri though did not disappoint 9,000 odd fans in the stadiums as India trashed Kenya 3-0 in the match where Chhetri himself scored two goals.

“I don’t feel we should be begging people to watch the national team. The response has been unbelievable. When the national team has been playing the manner we have been playing in the last three years it was disappointing to see the turnout in the first match. I expect the stands to be full in the next two matches,” he stated after the match, as per the AIFF press release.

For the next matches (against New Zealand on June 7 and the final on June 10 where India have booked their place) all the tickets are sold out.

That level of engagement brought memories back of an era when football following community in India was eagerly waiting to switch their television sets on at midnight to see how their teams in Spanish and European leagues are getting on. It is not the first time Indian crowd turned to cheer up their teams in house-full stadiums. There was an era when 40,000-45,000 used to pack into the stadiums for Sait Nagjee Trophy and the Nehru Cup. Even for the Indian Super League (ISL) the South Indian derby – Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC has been seen in packed stadiums. It may be due to the involvement of foreign players to whom Indian footballs fans are following for years. But the Indian crowd loved enjoying football games.

So, the Monday’s game was a welcome gesture for Indian football. The game’s development which is in its prime note in last three years was underestimated by the fans has started to begin a new era in Indian sports history. Chhetri may have grabbed the headlines, but Jeje Lalpekhlua and Udanta Singh’s attack on opponents and Sandesh Jhingan’s intervention displayed this game is not just about the goals alone.

Hope, Indian football fans will continue their love to their blue army like this, and we won’t be a surprise that Indian fans turning in numbers to upcoming 2019 AFC Asia Cup in UAE.

Intercontinental Cup 2018: Blue Tigers focusing on getting the job done

MUMBAI: Two back to back victories in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup seem to have made the Indian National Team more determined to “keep the ball rolling.”

“We have started off in an exquisite manner but now the challenge is to get the job done in the same fashion. The momentum needs to be sustained and we have to overcome New Zealand next, and then the final,” defender Subhashish Bose utters,

India who sit pretty on 6 points from 2 matches play New Zealand in their next league of the tournament tomorrow at the Mumbai Football Arena.

Striker Balwant Singh, who has been a revelation in the National Team since his return to the squad last year at the tri-nation tournament also at the Mumbai Football Arena also stays aware the “fresh challenge.”

“We have pulled off back-to-back wins but a fresh challenge lies ahead. We have to keep our head down and continue working. We are a confident bunch of lads and we hope we continue the job,” he maintains. Singh came off the bench the other night to lay it for Chhetri to score India’s third goal against Kenya in the last match.

Speaking at a media interaction prior the team’s practice session, winger Halicharan Narzary said, “Obviously we will be playing for a win against New Zealand, but it will not be easy. It will be remarkable if we win all of our three matches going ahead into the finals of the Cup and keep the winning momentum alive till the finals”

Post the two back to back victories, the team was involved in a recovery session at the pool and team meetings. The squad also went through a practice session at the Mumbai Football arena this evening.

“We are working as a unit and I, personally, feel confident to score more. As a striker, utilising opportunities and scoring goals is of paramount importance and I won’t compromise with that,” Balwant informs.

Subhashish feels the AFC Asian Cup will be a “huge platform” for the team.

“The AFC Asian Cup is going to be a huge platform for us where we have to be absolutely at the top of our game. This tournament has been going well so far and hopefully, we’ll leave Mumbai with some extra baggage,” he smiles.

Narzary adds: “The Intercontinental Cup is a very important tournament for us and before the AFC Asian Cup it will be a good platform to test ourselves against some of the teams of different playing styles of the elite level, that we don’t come across often”

Barely a veteran of two International matches, Subhashish is happy to having contributed for the team’s cause. “It’s so satisfying to have played my heart out to help us register back-to-back clean-sheets. But it was the defence line led by Sandesh-bhai and Anas-bhai who made it possible. Not to forget that had not Gurpreet-paaji not pulled off those marvellous saves, clean-sheets wouldn’t have been possible at all,” he quips.

Halicharan lauded skipper Sunil Chhetri as a motivation for every young football in the nation and said, “Sunil bhai is an inspiration in himself and he has been a role model for every young player in India. It is a joyous moment for Indian football that a legend has played 100 matches and I wish he will play even more in the coming years”

“We wanted to give Sunil-bhai a gift on his 100th International Cap and that gift was qualifying to play in the final of the Intercontinental Cup and defeat Kenya. Now we will take one match at a time and aim to win the Cup”, he further added.

Intercontinental Cup 2018: New Zealand edge Chinese Taipei to stay alive

MUMBAI: New Zealand edged past Chinese Taipei 1-0 on Tuesday to keep themselves alive in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup 2018.

Both teams came into the game desperate for their first win of the tournament, after New Zealand had been beaten 2-1 by Kenya while Chinese Taipei went down 5-0 to India.

In a tight game which could have gone either way Myer Bevan’s 36th-minute penalty proved the difference after a thrilling 90 minutes at the Mumbai Football Arena.

The first-half proved to be a tense and exciting affair with both teams having their moments in attack although there were not many clear chances on goal.

The All Whites started the match on the front foot and Jai Ingham had a sniff on goal after 12 minutes when a weak back-pass let him in, but Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Pan Wen-Chieh reacted smartly to snuff out the danger.

Chinese Taipei, came back into the game as their pacey midfielders William Donkin, Lin Chang-lun and Chu En-Le threatened with their direct running, even though it didn’t result in many chances to open the score.

Instead, it was New Zealand who got a penalty in the 36th minute when Tzu-Kuei Hung fouled Sarpreet Singh inside the box and Bevan’s well-taken spot-kick saw the All Whites into the break with a slender lead

Chinese Taipei started somewhat better in the second-half, but were unable to really stretch the All Whites defense and create scoring chances from open play. However, Donkin twice threatened from free-kicks.

More and more Chinese Taipei started to build up pressure on the New Zealand defense. Chen Chao-an came on for Chen Hao-wei in the 58th minute and the winger helped Chinese Taipei get some momentum going forward.

Li Mao came close to scoring with a shot from the edge of the box, but New Zealand goalkeeper made a fine save.

Meanwhile, New Zealand had a golden chance to wrap up the game in the 74th minute when Ingham pinched the ball off Chen Ting-yang and headed toward goal, but the defender got back to make a risky challenge and did just enough to deny the striker.

Chinese Taipei, thereafter, continued to put pressure and there was another goal scoring opportunity in the 87th minute but Chu En-Le failed to hit the target from inside the box.

It was a much improved performance for Chinese Taipei in the second-half, but it wasn’t enough to get the much-needed three points.