Tag: AFC Asian Cup

We will be playing for win against Thailand, says Gurpreet

ABU DHABI: Ahead of India’s clash against Thailand in the opening match of the Blue Tiger’s campaign in the AFC Asian Cup, Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stated that India will be playing for a win.

Speaking at the Official Pre-Match Press Conference, Gurpreet said, “It will be a challenge for us tomorrow against Thailand, but the boys are ready to face them and we will play for a win”

“We have worked really hard in the last four years to be here and we will try to put on the best show possible. The boys have been doing the hard work on and off the pitch, we will make sure that the work does not go in vain”

“We as a team are proud of the belief that we have made over the last four years. We have given our everything on the pitch and will continue to do so”, he added.

The Indian National Team has been drawn in Group A of the AFC Asian Cup alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain, after qualifying for the fourth time only in their history with the last qualification coming way back in 2011. The Blue Tiger had however finished Runners-up in 1962.

“As a team, we have proved that we can win and we are not a team to play against. We are concentrating on the challenge ahead and will take one match at a time”, Gurpreet further states, “The main thing is to stay positive and be consistent”

The goalkeeper was also part of India’s squad in the 2011 edition of the AFC Asian Cup and drawing comparisons he said, “The experience of playing in 2011 has been huge for me and I have learnt a lot from it”

“It was a different team in 2011 when players were at their peak. This team is young and could play for years to come. The desire in this team is ever-growing and they are hungry to prove themselves”

Meanwhile, Head Coach Stephen Constantine sitting beside stated that the Indian National Team is the second youngest team in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 with an average age of 25 and the youngest in India’s history to participate in the AFC Asian Cup.

The coach said, “The future is bright and we will try to make it out of the group stages. Thailand we will be a tough test for us, but we are confident of our abilities.”

AFC plans to introduce VAR at AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) determination to embrace technological advances for the development of football in Asia has been underlined with the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system at some stage in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 – which is just 100 days away.

After approval from FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and consultation with the AFC Competitions and Referees Departments, the AFC Executive Committee approved the implementation of VAR at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 – pending final confirmation that all necessary preparation is in place.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC President, said: “Asian football is determined to embrace technology for the good of the game and we are looking into the introduction of VAR at some stage during the AFC’s pinnacle competition – the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

“We saw the VAR first hand during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and it was clear to everyone that there needed to be a great deal of training of officials and investment in facilities to make sure that the system was effective and a positive addition to the game.

“We are grateful for the support of FIFA and IFAB and now I have asked the Administration to ensure all the logistical elements and practical arrangements are in place so that we can introduce the VAR to enhance the AFC Asian Cup.’

The biggest and best AFC Asian Cup kicks off on January 5, 2019 – in just 100 days – when the UAE host Bahrain in Abu Dhabi and today representatives of the 24 teams arrived in Abu Dhabi for the crucial Teams’ Workshop.

The tournament, last held in the UAE in 1996, has increased from 16 teams in 2015 to the record 24 now and every one of the AFC’s five regions are represented in an event which will have a record prize money of US$14.8m as well as a new trophy and a new official Molten match ball.

India to visit China for first time ever to play international friendly on October 13

NEW DELHI: As part of their preparation for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the Indian National Team will be playing an International Friendly against China on October 13.

The match which will be held in the scheduled FIFA October window will be played at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium at Suzhou City, Jiangsu province. The kick-off has been slated for IST 5.05pm.

This is the first time ever than an Indian Senior National Team will be travelling to China. The two nations have till now faced 17 times, all on Indian soil — the last being 21 years ago for the Nehru Cup in Kochi in 1997.

For the record, India are yet to win a match against China. Off the past 17 matches, 12 have gone in favour of China while rest 5 were drawn.

However, the Indian National Team has been on an upsurge over the last couple of years, maintaining an unbeaten run of 12 official matches for a span which extended from June 2016 to November 2017.

Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation said that AIFF is looking forward to a “long bilateral footballing relationship with China.”

“Globally India and China are now being looked up to as two of the fastest emerging Football markets. The match will usher in a new era in Asian Football as this is the first-time ever that the Indian National Team will be travelling to play in China. We look forward to a long term bilateral footballing relationship with China in near future,” he said.

“Playing against China in China is a perfect way to gear up for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. China are a supremely talented side and it will provide us an opportunity to further gauge ourselves where we stand prior to the Continental Championships.”

India are currently ranked 97 in the September FIFA Rankings while China are at 76.

The October International Friendly assumes huge importance as it will set the pace for India’s preparatory process for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup (January 2019) in UAE.

National Coach Stephen Constantine stated “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 game right now. Getting to play under pressure is important and an away fixture in China is exactly the kind of game we need,” he quipped. “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.”

Meanwhile, the India U-16 National Team had visited to China earlier this year for an invitational four-nation tournament as part of their preparation for the ongoing AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018.

Gurpreet paaji has helped me in various situations says Anirudh Thapa

NEW DELHI: Anirudh Thapa, one of the brightest young talents of the country revealed that he used to get bullied by other boys in his childhood for not being as physically as strong as them. But, he didn’t give up and finally, could lay a hand on the prestigious ‘AIFF Emerging Player of the Year’ award.

“As a kid, I used to play with the bigger-sized boys who were playing seriously whereas for me it was nothing more than a fun. I used to get bullied these days because I wasn’t as big as them,” he smiled during a media interaction in the Capital. “But, I didn’t give up and continued to eventually reach here where I’m today,” he recollected.

“I was not extraordinary in studies, unlike my elder brother who is an engineer. I pushed myself into Football and my dad backed me to pursue my dream. He used to take me to various camps and finally I landed up in the AIFF Academy where I started honing my football skills,” the 20-year-old midfielder stated.

Thapa mentioned that it was a ‘dream-come-true’ moment for him to start in the Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai and he wholeheartedly thanked the senior players for backing him.

“The Intercontinental Cup was where I made my first senior team start and it was nothing short of a dream-come-true moment for me. Through the tournament, the senior players helped me settle down well and we always look up to them and learn the nuisances of the game.”

Meanwhile, Thapa made a special mention of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who helped him on various occasions to come up as a better player.

“Someone like Gurpreet-paaji was extremely welcoming and helped me in various situations.”

“Everyone in the team keeps telling me to hit the gym and put on some more mass. Playing in central midfield is a tough job as you get sandwiched by defenders as well as strikers,” the Uttarakhand-based player added.

“Representing the country is an achievement and in the next few months, we’re going to play the AFC Asian Cup. We won’t make it an easy job for the coach when he selects the team for January. We are fighting hard for the limited slots in the team.”

“SAFF is a tournament where we have generally been successful. Whether we’ll come back with the trophy from Bangladesh or not, that depends on time. But, we can assure that we won’t throw in the towel without a fight and we’ll give 100% on the pitch to accomplish the goal,” Thapa mentioned.

India will take on Sri Lanka in their opening fixture of the SAFF Champuonship 2018 in Dhaka on September 5, 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: 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.

Constantine reacts to Myanmar draw

GOA: India national team coach Stephen Constantine has credited his charges following the 2-2 draw against Myanmar at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Tuesday.

India, who already qualified for the AFC Asian Cup finals, came from behind twice through skipper Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua to cancel out Yan Naing Oo and Kyaw Ko Ko’s goals in their penultimate Group A fixture of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification.

Read Match Report: India rally to hold Myanmar in AFC Asian Cup qualifier

Although the British tactician had been hoping for all three points, he had no complaints about the outcome.

“I am happy with the boys. We created enough chances to win the game but couldn’t score. I think young players are getting better and better with time. The future looks good for this team but we need to work harder.”

“The players accounted for themselves well despite conceding very early, Myanmar were equally good. This game gives us an impression of how the boys can stand the pressure. Over the whole game‚ I can say that it is a fair result because both teams had opportunities.” Constantine concluded.

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

Ready to offer Chhetri a Myanmar passport – Gerd Zaise

MARGAO: Myanmar coach Gerd Zaise praised Indian National Team skipper Sunil Chhetri highly during the pre-match press conference held at the Pandit JLN Stadium today.

Referring to Chhetri’s goal making the difference between the two Teams in the first leg, the German Coach described Chhetri as the “most dangerous player.”

“The Indian captain is a cool customer and he’s the most dangerous player. We must take care of the counter attacks and the defence line must be cautious when it involves him,” Zaise stated.

The veteran Coach even went to the extent saying: “I am ready to give him a Myanmar Passport,” a comment which the Coach even made to Chhetri when the two met post the press conference.

“India are really good at defending and we have to absolutely on our toes to penetrate them. I would like to congratulate them on their success but tomorrow we have to take our chances to go back with a positive result,” Zaise stated. “We have come to Goa to play good football and take some points.”

“Our first target is not to lose. We were the better side in the first leg but eventually ended up on the losing side.”

He further added: “We need to score. Sometimes, you will get only one chance in the entire match and you need to utilise that.”

Captain Yan Aung Kyaw, nevertheless, dismissed talks of any “extra pressure on his side.”

“After 15 years we stand with a realistic chance to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. We come out every day to get a win. Tomorrow is no different and we need nothing less than a win. There’s no other alternative.”

It’s like a group of brothers playing together: Jhingan

NEW DELHI: Perhaps none knows that Sandesh Jhingan cried as a 17-year old when India lost to Bahrain in the Doha 2011 Asian Cup.In a freewheeling interview, Jhingan travels down memory lane to the day while speaking about his love for the National Team, his self-assessment as a player, the aim at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, defending as a Team, the ‘special back-four’ and much more. EXCERPTS:

Personally, what does qualification to the Asian Cup mean to you?

It’s a big achievement for the Country as it’s a continuous process of growth of Indian Football after the last qualification in Doha 2011. Our priority from now on is to improve and try to dominate in Asia as the Asian Cup provides us with the chance to play the bigger teams. To improve we need to learn the dominance and there is still a lot of work to be done for that.

Did you follow the Doha 2011 Asian Cup?

The last time India played in Doha (in 2011), I was a 17-year old boy and remember crying after our loss to Bahrain — a match which I felt we could have won. It was an emotional moment for a boy who was in love with the National Team and the other day in Bengaluru, it was a special moment when we qualified.

What next?

The job is not done yet. This is the first step which we have achieved because we will travel to UAE not just to participate. Rather, we need to make it to the next round for which, I reiterate, we need to work harder.

What do you attribute the unbeaten streak of the National Team to?

The biggest character of this team stays that we never give up. If you look back, we had a bad run initially but since then we have been able to turn around and it has to be attributed to the mental strength of the team.The unity in the squad is commendable, it’s like a group of brothers playing football together. That’s the understanding which we have and it’s very vital for us.

Within 2 years of making your international debut, you have earned the title of ‘Mr. Dependable.’ How much have you improved as a player?

(Smiles). The fans have been a huge support and I need to thank them for that.

But I feel it’s still a long way for me to improve as a player. I still need to work harder. Obviously, I have improved my fitness immensely and whether I have improved as a player, maybe the Coach and the others can comment. All I know is that the road is long.

The defensive back four has played a major role in taking India to this level.

I think it’s not just about the back four. If you look at the match against the Kyrgyzstan, there was a moment when Eugeneson Lyngdoh tackled in our own box which otherwise could have enabled them to score. We also have Halicharan Narzary running up and down the flanks in every match to help our side-backs.

Actually, it’s collective work with one covering up for the other. The whole team does that, so it’s not right to solely credit the back four for the defending.

What’s special about the four?

It’s the blind trust which we have amongst ourselves. Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das and I have been playing together since our U-23 days and it’s been quite a long time. Inadvertently the understanding has grown over the years, but for example, in a match, I ask anyone of the back four to turn, he will do it instantly without even thinking and I will reciprocate in the same manner if they tell me too.