Tag: Indian Football Team

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.

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.

We didn’t disappoint anyone else but ourselves, says Constantine

DHAKA: Coach Stephen Constantine, after going down in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 final against Maldives narrowly, stated that the team “didn’t disappoint anyone but ourselves” as they “didn’t do enough to win the game”.

“We didn’t play the game according to our potential and that’s where the lack of experience matters. We weren’t able to replicate our performance from the semi-finals (against Pakistan) and that’s what seems to happen when you play with younger boys. They don’t have the consistency and the experience to play at the same level every game but they’ll learn from this. I think we didn’t disappoint anyone else but ourselves. We didn’t do enough to win the game but we move on from here”, Constantine stated during the post-match press conference in Dhaka yesterday (September 16, 2018).

“The way they performed and delivered in the last 10-12 days, I’m extremely proud of them. They are the future of India football for the next 6-8 years. I’m extremely proud of the boys and it’s going to be a good learning experience for them”, Constantine added.

On being asked whether there was a tinge of complacency amongst the boys having won over the same opponents in the group stage, coach brushed it aside.

“I don’t think there was a question of underestimating Maldives at any point of time. Maldives had our full respect but we couldn’t do what we were capable of doing. Maldives deserve the credit for sitting back and keeping on frustrating us in the way we play.”

“We were impatient a few times and lost the balls quite a few times to lose the control of the game. Moreover, two silly mistakes cost us heavily as they fired two decisive goals. That’s football and we learn from this”, he added further.

Moreover, he mentioned that the boys’ movements were ‘fantastic’ against Pakistan but they were not able to replicate the same in the final.

“Our movement against Pakistan was fantastic but not against Maldives (in the final). Although some of the players were good, others were not. Had our movement been good enough, we could have won the game”, Coach lamented.

Lallianzuala Chhangte who appeared to have added more flair in the attacking third in the group stage, as well as semi-finals, was suspended in the final owing to the marching orders that he received against Pakistan.

Coach referred to that incident as well, “After beating Pakistan, we were not going to change the team and he would have only started at the bench. But, would he be able to add something more? Absolutely. We did miss him but I would say again, he was not going to start the game.”

Along with congratulating Maldives for their achievement, he mentioned that had India scored 15 minutes sooner, the complexion of the game might have been different.

“We scored 8 goals in 4 games which I don’t feel is bad. Yes, we couldn’t score enough tonight. Had we scored 15 minutes sooner, maybe, that could have been a different game. Maldives defended well till the end and went on to win the trophy. I would like to congratulate them on achieving this.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the BFF and SAFF for being such a nice host to us”, he pronounced.

SAFF Championship: India, Maldives to do it all over again

DHAKA: The 2018 SAFF Suzuki Cup final will be played between two teams who have faced each other more than any other in the competition’s history: Maldives and India. They have faced off on 12 previous occasions in the tournament, including four finals, with this their first clash in the final since 2009, when India won on penalties after a goalless draw at full time.

The two sides have already met in this year’s tournament. India won 2-0 in the group stage thanks to goals from Nikhil Poojari and Manvir Singh.

In their last match against India in the group stages, Maldives recorded a passing accuracy of just 50.9% as they went on to lose 2-0. That is the lowest percentage of any team in a match at this year’s tournament, and they will have to improve upon their quality in possession this time around, both with their passing and their finishing accuracy.

This year, they come into the final despite having only won one of their three matches in the tournament, a 3-0 win over Nepal in the semi-final. Two of their goals in that game came from Ibrahim Waheed Hassan. Their key creative influence comes in the form of wide man Ali Fasir, who, despite only starting two of their three matches in this year’s tournament, has created more chances than any other of his teammates (5).

Maldives will be facing this year’s joint-top scorers at the SAFF Suzuki Cup, with India scoring seven goals in just three games. Defensively, they will have to be at their best to keep them at bay, and captain Akram Abdul Ghanee would be key in this effort. Not only did the centre back score the opener in their semi-final win over Nepal, but he has won more tackles (5), made more interceptions (9) and made more recoveries (22) than any other outfield player for the Maldives in this year’s tournament.

“We have struggled in the group stages but we’re in the final now. This is our biggest chance. We haven’t played the final in 9 years. We’re well prepared and we’re going to fight to win the tournament.” said the Maldives skipper Akram Abdul Ghanee at the pre-match press conference of the final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018.

The Maldives Head Coach Petar Segrt was delighted with his team making it to the final and said, “We are facing a huge opponent. India has a population of 1.3 billion and we are 300,000. But tomorrow it will be 11v11 on the field.”

“If India is fielding U23 players, we are fielding semi-professionals. Most of our players work for eight hours and then train. I’m very proud of each one of them. It’s a huge success for us to be in the final of this competition. We respect India, they’re a big opponent. But this is our chance which we want to take it,” he added.

India have been a dominant force in the SAFF Suzuki Cup over the years. They have won the tournament more times (7) than any other individual nation has even made it to the finals (Maldives will be playing their fifth final this year), and their seven tournament wins is more than every other side has managed combined (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Afghanistan all with one win each).

In addition to having scored the most number of goals (7, alongside Nepal), they have also been the most clinical with their finishing. Not only have they had the highest percentage of their shots on target, but they have the best shot conversion rate of all sides at this year’s competition too.

A large part of that can be attributed to the player who has been their main threat going forward, Manvir Singh. He has scored more goals than any other player at the 2018 SAFF Suzuki Cup (three), including a brace in their 3-1 semi-final win over Pakistan. He also scored against Maldives in the group stage, so they will know all too well about the danger he poses.

Stephen Constantine, Head Coach of the Indian Football Team said, “I’m pleased with our progress in this competition. I think we’ve played very well and we deserve to be in the final. Maldives were excellent against Nepal, and I don’t think anyone expected how well they would perform in that game. They have some really good players, and have our full respect, but we fear no one”.

Clash against Pakistan is just another match: Stephen Constantine

DHAKA: Even as the footballing fraternity all around look ahead to India’s semi-final clash with Pakistan in the ongoing SAFF Suzuki Cup, National Coach Stephen Constantine described it as “just another match.”

Courtesy India’s back to back victories against Sri Lanka and Maldives by an identical 2-0 margin, India booked a semi-final clash with Pakistan which will be played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on September 12 (Wednesday).

“We are aware of the contest. But that is nothing different. It’s just another match. We can’t let the occasion get over us and hopefully, we will beat them to advance to the final,” Constantine commented.

The two sides last played an official match in September 2013 in Kathmandu, India emerging winners by a solitary goal on that occasion. Incidentally, Pakistan have qualified to the last-four of SAFF Suzuki Cup after 13 long years and they now clash with the 7-time champions.

Constantine lauded Nepal’s achievements and expressed they were deserving entrants to the semis.

“Nepal have played some stupendous football and they have deservingly reached the semis. Hopefully, we get a win against Pakistan and face Nepal in the final,” he maintained.

Nepal will play Maldives in the other semi-final which is scheduled on the same day (September 12, 2018) at IST 3.30pm.

Meanwhile, Manvir Singh declared Most Valuable Player for his performance against Maldives stated his first International goal was his ‘most delightful moment’ as a Footballer.

“Scoring for the country is always special. The first goal – it’s a different emotion. I was sniffing around but the goal was eluding me,” he quipped. “So finally, when I made it, it was the most delightful moment for me as a footballer. The win has been a result of our team game and now we’re looking forward to the semi-finals.”

SAFF Championship 2018: India book semifinal clash with Pakistan

NEW DELHI: India defeated Maldives 2-0 to book a semi-final clash with arch rivals Pakistan in the SAFF Suzuki Cup. The semi-final which will be the first official meeting of the two teams after a gap of 5 years will be played at Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Stadium on Wednesday (September 12, 2018).

The last time the two teams had met in an official match was also in a SAFF Championship in Kathmandu in September 2013. India had won 1-0 on that occasion.

On Sunday (September 9), maiden International goals from Nikhil Poojary (36th) and Manvir Singh (45th) helped India to finish on pole position in Group B on 6 points.

Nikhil could have scored the opener in the 11th minute itself but despite getting all the power behind his header off a Anirudh Thapa cross, it sailed over.

Nikhil and Lallianzuala Chhangte were constantly swapping positions on the wings and that stretched the rival defence. India eventually surged into the lead in the 36th minute. Nikhil played a one-two with Farukh and as the rival defender despite intercepting it fumbled a bit, Nikhil pounced on the loose ball and placed it delectably past the rival Goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal.

Manvir doubled the lead almost at the stroke of interval. Thapa, a bit off-balanced with a rival midfielder shadowing him, managed to essay a gem of a pass for Manvir who sidestepped the onrushing Faisal and pushed it in.

Changing over, Nikhil stayed a constant threat to the Maldives defence all throughout. In the 64th minute, a cross from him down the right was averted by an acrobatic Faisal.

Maldives, meanwhile, continued to look to reduce the margin and had not Jerry Lalrinzuala intercepted in time in the 73rd minute, they could have had a shot at the Indian goal.

The Indian defenders didn’t allow them much space to manoeuvre. In the 78th minute an alert Indian Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith was quick to come off his line, in fact, outside the box to clear in time. Kaith’s reflexes allowed India to maintain a clean slate, the lanky custodian coming up with a couple of saves in the last 5 minutes.

Constantine summons 4 U-17 World Cup players for SAFF Championship camp

NEW DELHI: Four U-19 players who represented India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 have been summoned by National Coach Stephen Constantine for the preparatory camp for the SAFF Championship.

The four U-19 players — Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Rahim Ali and Rahul KP — all of whom are part of AIFF’s developmental team Indian Arrows will be reporting to the Camp in Delhi from July 28 onwards, along with 30 others.

Among the others, 29 are current U-23 players with Sumeet Passi being the sole senior player (above 23) named in the list of 34 probables.

India, the defending champions, have been clubbed in Group B along with Maldives and Sri Lanka and play their first match against Sri Lanka in Bangladesh (venue not yet announced) on September 6. The final is slated on September 15.

Constantine stressed it’s important to see whether the youngsters are up to the challenge or not.

“We are always looking down to the age groups to see if these players can make the step up the ladder. I have always put a great deal of importance on the youth and have stuck to the same philosophy — this camp is no different. Quite a few youngsters have been provided with a chance to prove their worth,” he added.

“Heading to a tournament with such a young team is going to be a challenge but that’s what we want. We want to find out that particular player who can push the extra bit to achieve the desired result, who can take up the extra responsibility to force himself into the team.”

The list of 34 probables stay as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Vishal Kaith, Toufik Kabir, Kamaljit Singh, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill.

DEFENDERS: Nishu Kumar, Umesh Perambhara, Davinder Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sarthak Golui, Lalruatthara, Subhasish Bose, Jerry Lalrinzuala.

MIDFIELDERS: Nikhil Poojary, Isaac Vanmalswama, S Nandha Kumar, Udanta Singh, Vinit Rai, Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Rohit Kumar, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Arjun Jayaraj, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Vignesh D, Rahim Ali.

FORWARDS: Sumit Passi, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Hitesh Sharma, Alen Deory, Manvir Singh, Kivi Zhimomi, Rahul KP.

HEAD COACH: Stephen Constantine.

Quality and growth of Indian football has been compromised: Kushal Das

NEW DELHI: Following Indian Olympic Association’s decision in not clearing the Indian Football Team(s) to participate in the forthcoming Asian Games, Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation labelled the move as “sad and disheartening.” Addressing a press conference at the Football Headquarters in Delhi, Das reflected on the issue, the willingness of sending the Team(s) at AIFF’s expense, the failure of the IOA to recognize the achievements of Indian Football and much more.

Abhishek Yadav, present Director of National Teams, also present on the occasion informed on how the decision affects the future generation of Indian Football being deprived of valuable exposure. EXCERPTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE:

Has there been an official communication from IOA’s side?

Never! There hasn’t been any official announcement from IOA about the same and all we got has been a verbal communication. The IOA never followed the protocol of communication and did not even inform us as to why the Football Team(s) have been barred from participating in the Asian Games.

Why don’t you send the Football Team(s) at your own expense?

We have expressed our disappointment to IOA officially wherein we have even mentioned that we are willing to bear expenses of travel and stay on our own.

The IOA had asked for an explanation way back on June 4, 2018 and after that there has been no communication as to whether the IOA wants to engage further or not. Even Mr. (Praful) Patel, the AIFF President spoke to IOA President Mr. Narinder Batra and he was told the same thing – ‘to draft an explanation for reconsideration.’

Football is a global and a different kind of sport. We have jumped from 173 to 97 in FIA Rankings since 2015 and it is time that the IOA looked at things differently.

How will this affect Indian Football?

11 Players in the Senior National Team setup are U-23 and immediately after the Asian Games we head to the SAFF Championship where a significant number of youth players will be part of the squad. Moving ahead, in 2019 we have the AFC U-23 Qualifiers and this would have been a great learning exposure for the players.

It is sad and disheartening that the IOA has adopted such an approach. We were 173 in 2015 and as of today we are 97 in the FIFA rankings which explains the significant efforts made for the evolution of Football in India. The fact that we have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup and have setup various grassroots initiatives and Youth Leagues are a testament of that effort.

Even for the Women National Team there have been significant efforts to develop the squad and they were already in camp and were supposed to play a tournament in Spain as preparation for the Asian Games.

Abhishek Yadav, present Director of National Teams, AIFF sitting next, added:

We were considering calling up U-17 World Cup players for the preparatory Camp for the Asian Games. The Indian Arrows’ players who have the experience of playing in the World Cup and the I-League represent the next generation of Indian Football. The Asian Games would have been a huge experience for them which would have served Indian Football in the long run. We are pushing aggressively to develop our players and the more exposure the players get, the better it is for Indian Football.

Has the Government been supportive?

Kushal Das said: The Government and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports have been hugely supportive of our developmental activities. We have received an unprecedented support from their side which is significantly much more than what we used to get.

However, the decision of not allowing the Team is solely of the IOA and not of the MYAS.

Are you optimistic that the IOA will change their stance?

We are still optimistic that the team will receive the green signal for participation. We are asking for an explanation and maybe the IOA will reconsider their stance.

We are ranked currently 13th in Asia (if you leave aside Australia), and if the IOA criteria is the top 8 teams, we are not behind. But regardless of the IOA decision, the development process will never stop. We will continue the process of evolving our National Teams one way or the other as the ultimate goal is to emerge as one of the top Asian nations in the near future.

Tri-nation Football Series to be held in Mumbai

NEW DELHI: India begin their campaign against Mauritius on August 19 at the Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai in the Tri-nation Football Series. India will play their second match against St. Kitts & Nevis on August 24.

The Tri-nation Football series is part of the National Team’s preparatory process for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifying away match against Macau which is scheduled for September 5.

Thanking WIFA and MDFA for their cooperation, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said the “sporting culture” of Mumbai makes it stand out amongst others.

“We are overwhelmed by the eagerness of the authorities in Mumbai to host the three International matches in Mumbai. Mumbai has been the venue for the National Team since September 2016 when we hosted Puerto Rico,” he stated.

India are currently ranked 97 as per August 2017 FIFA Rankings. Indian Football and the National Team have been on the upsurge with a string of good results leading to a climb of 77 places in FIFA Rankings over the last two years. The Team has now won 13 of their 15 International matches having won their last 8 fixtures (including the unofficial match against Bhutan).


August 19: India vs Mauritius

August 22: St Kitts & Nevis vs Mauritius

August 24: India vs St. Kitts & Nevis