Tag: AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

Constantine stay confident ahead of UAE tie

ABU DHABI: Before taking on hosts UAE in their second match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, coach Stephen Constantine stressed that the “game is played on the pitch, not on paper.”

“We know all the three games are going to be very tough. There’ll be no easy game at this level. But we’ll go toe-to-toe with them. A game is not played on paper, but on the pitch. The UAE are the hosts and will be under pressure. It’s understandable they will go for all three points,” Constantine expressed.

The match which is scheduled to be played at the gigantic Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi tomorrow (January 10, 2019) will be telecast live on Star Sports 2, 3 and will also be streamed live on Hotstar. The kick-off is slated for IST 9.30pm.

UAE are currently ranked 79 in the FIFA rankings, and they have been on the winning side on eight occasions against India out of 13 matches played between the two sides. The Blue Tigers have won thrice.

The last encounter between these two sides which took place at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi in 2011 had ended in a 2-2 draw, with the last goal being scored by Jeje Lalpekhlua.

“Jeje is a very good player. But unfortunately, he did not have much game time recently. You put Jeje in the position and he will score for you. I was so happy that he scored the goal against Thailand. He deserves to get the goal, especially at this level,” the coach was all praise for the Mizo sniper.

Constantine added: “They are a physical, as well as a skilful side. I am not worried about our fitness. We have to play our best game to get the result.”

Sunil Chhetri, who added another two to his International goal scoring tally in the last outing, also earned huge plaudits from the coach. The two goals took him to 67, surpassing Lionel Messi in the highest scoring active player’s list.

“Sunil has always given everything whenever he has played for the National Team. I can’t complain about this. He is there to do his job and his job is to score goals. He has a phenomenal scoring record and we’re better with him in the team,” the Coach maintained.

“Against Thailand, we gave the ball away too many times which put the opposition in an advantageous position. We have to look after the ball better. I feel we started a bit nervous. Some young boys were too eager to press. We can’t repeat it against UAE.”

Meanwhile, deploying Ashique Kuruniyan up front alongside Sunil Chhetri proved to be a perfect masterstroke by the 55-year-old coach. When he was asked whether he has any further trickery up his sleeves, he quipped: “You have to wait and see.”

Stephen Constatine: We can’t wait for the game to begin

ABU DHABI: A day prior to their opening campaign in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 against Thailand, Indian National Team Head Coach Stephen Constatine admitted that he “can’t wait for the match to begin.”

India’s opening fixture against Thailand will kick-off at IST 7pm at the Al Nahyan Stadium tomorrow (January 6, 2018), and will be telecast live on Star Sports 3, and streamed live on Hotstar as well.

“The players are really looking forward to the opening match, and so am I. We can’t wait for the game to kick-off. It’s time for the show,” the Coach stressed. “We have a really young team. I wish they perform to their abilities. I’m sure we’ll do fine.”

This is India’s fourth participation in the AFC Asian Cup, the last being in Doha in 2011. On the other hand, Thailand’s best result in the Continental championship came in 1972 when they finished third. Since then, they have failed to overcome the group stage hurdle in all the five occasions they qualified for the final round.

India had finished second in the 1964 edition of the AFC Asian Cup.

Building up to the Continental Championship, Oman, who were held to a goalless draw by the Blue Tigers, got the better of Thailand three days back in a friendly fixture played behind the closed doors in Abu Dhabi.

But Constantine brushed aside on being asked whether India will have a psychological advantage when the Blue Tigers face the War Elephants. “They are different teams with a different set of players. Oman were trying out different players, and so were Thailand,” he commented.

“Thailand are a very good side and they are not to be underestimated at all. We’re in no position to underestimate anybody. We have to take one game at a time. We’ll give everything we have as we have continued to do in the last four years. We’ll obviously do our best to get the result that we need,” he stated.

A lot of travelling fans — the Blue Pilgrims have already landed in Abu Dhabi to cheer for the Blue Tigers. At the same time, a lot of expatriate Indians are also expected to throng the Al Nahyan Stadium to cheer loud.

“We need the support of our Indian Friends from Abu Dhabi and all over the UAE,” the Coach urged. “It’s not every day you go and see the Indian National Team play in the Asian Cup, and now it’s at your doorstep. This is a huge event as well as a huge opportunity for the Indians to see their National Team play at the highest stage in the continent,” he pronounced.

“Personally, it’s a proud moment for me to lead India to the Asian Cup. It has been a long difficult road which took more than three years to get here.

AIFF believed in me and allowed me to continue,” he maintained.

“The 1-0 win against the Kyrgyz Republic at home was something special. Apart from that, beating Myanmar in Myanmar after 64 years was a great result for us. It was the opening game of the final qualifying round. The result gave us the confidence to go forward,” he pronounced.

Significantly, India had to traverse the longest path than anyone else to qualify to the quadrennial continental championship. India had played 18 matches, most by any team, to have cemented their berth in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

I can’t take my place for granted – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

MUMBAI: India’s numero uno Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lauded Dheeraj Singh for his stupendous display in the FIFA U17 World Cup. “I have high hopes from Dheeraj because he is a very good prospect who can do a lot for this country,” Sandhu, the first Indian to ever played in the UEFA Europa League stated.

“Being the first choice (goalkeeper) so far has been good for me. But I can’t take my place for granted. And whoever the next one is, I hope he is better than me,” Sandhu opined.

On being asked about India’s prospect in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the custodian expressed: “We can’t be complacent and need to work hard. If we don’t put in our hard work, it will be difficult for us,” he mentioned. “We need to play at our best on those days. Otherwise, it won’t matter. Thailand, Bahrain are good teams and UAE being the home side will be a difficult side to deal with.”

Sandhu felt, Intercontinental Cup is a “good opportunity” for the team before the Continental championship and the team is ready to grab it.

“It is a very good platform for us to start building for AFC Asian Cup. We are lucky to have good opponents coming to India and giving us games. So we need to use it and make sure that we perform and learn from this experience. Make no mistake, New Zealand, Kenya and Chinese Taipei are tough teams.”

The 26-year-old Goalkeeper who made his International debut against Turkmenistan seven years back also added: “Chinese Taipei beat Bahrain recently and All Whites (New Zealand) need no introduction at all. Kenya have been a strong physical side and every team are going to give us different sort of problem.”

AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 vision and mission launched

BANGKOK: The Organising Committee for Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup UAE 2019 today launched the vision and mission for the competition which will run between January 5 and February 1, 2019.

The Committee, meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, agreed that the vision for the tournament, which will be extended to 24 teams for the first time, should be to make football the number one sport throughout Asia.

At a meeting where the latest preparation work was detailed, it was also confirmed that the tournament would showcase football in Asia in the biggest ever finals and that the event would enhance the awareness of and attendance at the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

The Asian Cup UAE 2019 also presents an opportunity to unite all local and international football fans in the Middle East and demonstrate the cultural diversity of the event, as well as strengthening football as the main sport in the UAE.

There was also a presentation from H E Aref Hamad Al Awani, Chairperson of the Local Organising Committee and General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, who confirmed that Rashed Stadium, home of Al Ahli which hosted the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in 2015, will be the second stadium used for the matches scheduled in Dubai.

The Chairperson of the Organising Committee for the Asian Cup Saoud Al Mohannadi said: “We have expanded the tournament from 16 to 24 teams for the finals and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 promises to be bigger and better than ever. It looks like everything is in place and going as planned and the LOC deserves our thanks and congratulations for their hard work.

“Congratulations also go to the 20 teams who have already qualified and good luck to the seven teams who still have dreams of reaching the UAE 2019.”

The draw for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will take place on April 27, 2018 – one month after the final round of qualifying matches.

India rally to hold Myanmar in AFC Asian Cup qualifier

MARGAO: India came back twice from the back to share the spoils with Myanmar in the final home fixture of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers at the Pandit JLN Stadium in Goa.

Sunil Chhetri (13′) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (69′) found the back of the net in either half to register a 2-2 draw eventually. Thanks to the 2-2 draw, India are now firmly cushioned at the top of the group A of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifier with 13 points from 5 matches.

Having conceded in the 19th second of the match, India regrouped fast.

A build-up down the left enabled India to restore parity when Hlaing Bo Bo brought down Captain Sunil Chhetri down inside the box in the 13th minute. The latter gleefully converted from the spot digging it to the left of the rival Goalkeeper Kyaw Zin to score his 56th International goal for India.

Six minutes later, Myanmar surged into the lead again as Kyaw Ko Ko rattled the back of the net from around 20 yards.

But that didn’t demoralise India. Udanta Singh and Halicharan Narzary switched flanks and Udanta, in particular, did manage to sneak in past his marker on a couple of occasions but the rival defence managed to recover in time.

India came close in the 30th minute when Sandesh Jhingan leapt higher than all to connect Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s corner but an acrobatic Zin managed to keep it at bay.

That apart, Chhetri ran past all in the 41st but his placement missed by a whisker.

After the changeover, Halicharan tried a couple of long-ranger to beat the Myanmar goalie but his efforts went abegging.

At the stroke of the hour-mark, Pritam Kotal swivelled a scintillating cross from the right wing directed to Chhetri but his steering header missed the target narrowly.

The reigning ‘AIFF Player of the Year’ Jeje Lalpekhlua finally, hit the target in the 69th minute to cancel Myanmar’s lead once again.

Eugeneson Lyngdoh puts in a long ball from the middle of the pitch which was calmly converted by the sturdy striker.

Stephen Constantine introduced the fresh pairs of legs of Bikash Jairu and Anirudh Thapa withdrawing Halicharan Narzary and Eugeneson Lyngdoh in the 76th and 82nd minute respectively.

In the 84th minute, Chhetri took a calculated free-kick which could have been converted by Jhingan but finally, the defender’s effort got jammed into the goalkeeper’s gloves.

India were awarded an indirect free-kick in the 86th minute and skipper Sunil Chhetri was spot on to hit the target once again, but his goal got cancelled as it went into the goal directly.

In the added time, Jeje and Thapa combined well to pass it to Chhetri but the skipper’s effort went just over the crossbar.

There were some nervy moments towards the end but the scoreline remained same until the final whistle.

India will play their last match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers against the Kyrgyz Republic on March 27, 2018.

India: Gurpreet Singh (GK), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pritam Kotal, Eugeneson Lyngdoh (Anirudh Thapa 82′), Germanpreet Singh, Halicharan Narzary (Bikash Jairu 76′), Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri (C), Jeje Lalpekhlua

It can be anybody’s game, stresses Constantine

MARGAO: India national team coach Stephen Constantine insists “it’s important to continue the momentum” in Tuesday’s clash against Myanmar despite qualification for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 already being secured.

“We have secured our place in the AFC Asian Cup, but it’s important to continue the momentum. This match is the first step to Asian Cup’s preparation which is precisely 14 months away,” said Constantine.

“The match allows us the opportunity to test the depth of our squad. Obviously, we are looking forward to,” he maintained.

Constantine showed huge respect for the visitors and said that the match can be “anyone’s game.”

“Myanmar are a very disciplined side. The coach is there for 8 long years and he follows a similar system. We had a torrid time in Myanmar.”

Skipper Sunil Chhetri, who made the difference in the added time in the first leg having ended a 64-year prolonged wait to register a win in Myanmar, reiterated the fact as well.

“I admit that they had a lot of ball possession. They kept us under tremendous pressure throughout. But at the end of the day, we took all three points. I will any day take three points at the end, no matter who has more ball possession,” the “talismanic” Captain stated.

Referring to the Myanmar coach’s comments that he’s ready to provide Chhetri with a Myanmar passport, Chhetri quipped: “Let’s not take away the credit from our defenders. As I remember we defended for most of the time and they carried out the job with utmost precision. If he hands me a Myanmar passport, it is to be given to the defenders, Jeje, Udanta too.”

Coach Stephen Constantine also lavished huge praise for the players’ “phenomenal work rate” which churned out a win in Myanmar.

“The work rate was phenomenal. We have continued our hard work for last 2 years and these are the results. Everyone knows that we are a hard-working unit and we will continue to do so.”

Referring Chhetri’s pivotal goal in the added time, coach recollected: “It was a 5-man move and Sunil was clinical to finish off the job. In Europe, the goals against Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic could have been talking points. On and off the pitch, we are a great team.”

The product of the AIFF Youth Development program Germanpreet Singh thanked the senior players for being a “great support to improve him as a player.”

“We always push ourselves to deliver on the pitch. The senior players have been a great support to every one of us to improve as a player,” the sturdy Germanpreet commented.

Everyone deserves credit including the bench: Sandhu

NEW DELHI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first Indian Footballer to play in the UEFA Europa Cup feels the team has “become stronger as a unit with every passing game.” In a freewheeling interview, Sandhu speaks at length about the significance of qualifying to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the changes in the squad, the resilient back-four, the art of defending and much more. EXCERPTS:

What does it mean for you to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019?

The last time in 2011 I was in the squad and it was a huge experience for me. Since then, qualifying for another edition of the AFC Asian Cup had been a priority for me.

The Asian Cup is a stage where you would want to play in your career simply because you get to play against the best in Asia, all of whom are very talented players. It’s the platform from where you can learn a lot to mature as a player.

What has changed in the squad in the last 12 months?

I think we have become stronger as a unit with every passing game. The work rate has been exceptional and the biggest plus point stays that we have been consistent for the last 12 months. The results are ample proof of that.

The Goalkeeper and the back four’s contribution often goes unnoticed. What are the strengths of India’s back four?

Such is the nature of the game (laughs aloud), but I need to put this straight. Our good run cannot be attributed to just the back four or the goalkeeper or the midfielders or the strikers. The whole team needs to be credited including the bench. In all of our games, we have defended together as a team and have stayed patient for our breakthroughs.

Which has been the most satisfying victory in recent times?

To me the away victory against Myanmar followed by the victory against the Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru will always stay on the top of the list (so far). Both Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic are extremely good sides who are very difficult to play against. Victories in those two matches put us in a very advantageous position to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Players need to utilise opportunity to cement place in squad: Chhetri

NEW DELHI: ‘Talismanic’ Captain Sunil Chhetri feels the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will help in understanding “where we lie as players and areas we need to improve.” As the Senior National Team prepares in Mumbai for India’s forthcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Myanmar slated for November 14, Chhetri, the highest Indian goal scorer in International Football with 55 goals spoke at length about future megastars of Indian Football, the last two years with Indian Football, the road forward and even his “regrets.” EXCERPTS:

You have played a major role in qualification to two AFC Asian Cups for India. Where do you rate it in your illustrious career?

It will be among the highest achievements. The memories of Doha 2011 will stay with me forever. It’s the top-most tournament in Asia and qualification was not just on my priority list, but for the entire squad. But I do have regrets too.


(Takes a deep breath) The last time when we couldn’t qualify for the 2015 edition which was held in Australia. I was really very sad. The regrets of not qualifying still linger and if anybody is to be blamed, it had to be us — the players.

What will the 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup provide for Indian Football?

It will help us in gauging ourselves as to where we lie as players and the areas we need to improve. That’s of paramount importance as Indian Football moves forward. The movement forward needs to be a continuous process and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will allow us to rub shoulders with the best in Asia.

There has been the arrival of a new breed of players in the National Team like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh amongst others. Are they the next megastars of Indian Football?

I really hope so. I will always put my money on them. In fact, I will be very disappointed if the trio doesn’t dominate Indian Football for the next decade. I also hope they get tough competition, with the U-17 and the U-16 squads pushing them further. Those batches are doing well for us too.

The present team is a new set playing together for 2 years now. What do they need to better themselves as players?

Maybe the Coach and the respective players can answer it better as to how they can improve as players.

But yeah, the players need to improve and that has always been my mentality. There is a lot of potentials which stays unachieved and if isn’t attained, it’s Indian Football’s loss.

For an outside point of view, I hope the players utilise their opportunity to cement their place in the squad. At the same time, there always needs to be a healthy competition from the bench to take the places in the starting XI. The process will only help Indian Football to get further stability.

Which has been your most satisfying moment in the last two years with the National Team?

It may sound weird but the triumph in the SAFF Cup was very significant. We were severely hit by injuries and missed a lot of seasoned pros. Winning with newcomers was indeed satisfying. Moreover, it was all about the rivalry with Afghanistan and had they won it, they would have taken the title forever.

In addition, the victory against the Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru was special too. They are a very good side and we had to dig deep. I have since watched the match many times and feel proud every time about the manner it was achieved.

Our sole focus is to qualify to the Asian Cup: Sunil Chhetri


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.

PM Modi lauds efforts of Indian National Team

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the Indian Senior National Team’s initiative to participate in the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign in Mumbai today (September 29, 2017).

Praising the efforts of the Indian Football Team taking part in the cleanliness campaign, the Prime Minister from his personal Twitter handle @narendramodi, retweeted @IndianFootball’s tweet saying: “Wonderful effort by our sportspersons to spread the message of #SwachhataHiSeva.”

The period from September 15 to October 2, 2017 is being celebrated as the ‘Swachhta Hi Seva.’

The National Team players, Coach Stephen Constantine and all the support staff took part in the campaign in Mumbai earlier today (September 29, 2017).

The Indian National Team is presently camping in Mumbai in preparation for the crucial AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Macau on October 2011 where a victory will earn them a berth in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. The National Team is currently on top of Group A having won all their three consecutive matches.