Tag: stephen constantine

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.”

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.”

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.

We’re not going to start as favorites, states Constantine

DHAKA: Despite defending champions India staring their defence of their SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign in style against Sri Lanka, a day prior to India’s last group league match against Maldives, National Coach Stephen Constantine declared that his team “is not going to start as favourites in any of the matches” in this tournament.

“In this competition, we are not going to start as favourites in any of our matches. We are a young and inexperienced side and we are playing against senior sides. We can say we have a good chance to win this game. But I don’t feel we can be labelled as favourites before the kick-off,” he stated.

The match is scheduled to be played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Sunday (September 9, 2018) at IST 6.30pm and will be telecast live on D Sport.

History points out that India have got the better of Maldives 13 times out of 18, whereas Maldives have won only twice. The last time the two teams met in the SAFF Championship was in the semi-final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup in Trivandrum in 2015-16 when India rode on a Jeje Lalpekhlua brace and a Sunil Chhetri strike to prevail 3-2.

However, Constantine reflected that ‘history’ won’t play any part when the two teams meet tomorrow.

“I am not a person who loves to focus on history too much. Obviously, it’s nice to look back to find that we have beaten them 13 times. But such facts don’t matter at all,” he maintained.

“Tomorrow we are playing against a completely different Maldives team and they’re also going to face a different India team whom they played last time. Had we won those 13 matches against the same set of players, that would have given us an edge.”

Maldives, meanwhile, played a goalless draw against Sri Lanka in their tournament opener and will be in the desperate hunt for that elusive point which will lift them into the semi-finals.

Reflecting on Sarthak Golui and Ashique Kuruniyan being cautioned in India’s opener against Sri Lanka, Constantine admitted it is a “concern.”

“Yes, that’s a concern for sure. If they get cautioned another time, it won’t be good news for us. We’ll have to be a bit careful tomorrow,” he maintained.

Farukh Choudhary who made his National Team debut against Lanka felt the team is not “under any pressure” at the moment.

“We are not under any sort of pressure. Personally, I am enjoying every single moment in my first National Team endeavour,” he quipped. “Yes, it could have been a dream debut for me had I scored. But leaving the ground with three points is all that mattered.”

“Coach mentioned last day and that our performance was below par. We have realised it too. We can do much better than that. We could have scored a few more goals. We are working on our mistakes and are hopeful to be more clinical tomorrow,” Farukh added.

India wrap up their exposure trip Down Under beating Rydalmere Lions 4-0

NEW DELHI: India U23s wrapped up their exposure trip Down Under in some style, registering an emphatic 4-0 victory over Rydalmere Lions FC, at the Valentine Sports Park in Sydney today (August 31, 2018).

Farukh Choudhary (6′, 38′) bagged a first-half brace before super-sub Manvir Singh (74′, 77′) added two more in three minutes to hand India a comfortable victory.

India, during their preparatory camp in Sydney, won two of the three friendly games against APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC (August 25) and Rydalmere Lions FC (August 31), whereas they went down fighting against reigning A-League premiers champions Sydney FC (August 28).

Farukh did not take more than six minutes to find the back of the net when he converted a long cross from Sajid Dhot from the heart of defense.

Four minutes later, Farukh created an opportunity for Ashique but the Lions defense intercepted to thwart the danger. Having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, India came very close to doubling the lead quite a few times but the Rydalmere defense was up to the task each time.

Farukh delivered once again when he chased down a long ball from Chhangte to fire it from close range, leaving the hosts two down.

In the second half, the Indian coach opted to assess some fresh pair of legs and introduced Manvir, Nikhil and Vignesh while withdrawing Sumeet, Chhangte and Ashique respectively.

At the stroke of the hour-mark, Anirudh Thapa got a chance to get his name on the scoresheet as well, but his long free-kick sailed over the crossbar. It was the youngster’s last contribution to the game as Hitesh Sharma replaced him immediately.

Farukh then earned a spot-kick in the 73rd minute and Manvir made no mistake to place it calmly in the net, having outfoxed the goalkeeper completely. Then Vinit, who came on as another substitute two minutes later, got hold of the ball in mid-field and crossed it over the defender’s reach for the Punjab-born striker. He slammed his second to send the Indian dugout into delirium.

After registering the authoritative victory, the Indian contingent will now head to Bangladesh to compete in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 where they face neighbours Sri Lanka in their opening fixture on September 5, 2018.

India go down 3-0 against three-time A-League champions Sydney FC

NEW DELHI: India U23s staged a plucky display against three-time A-League champion and reigning A-League premiers champion Sydney FC who struck thrice to garner a hard-fought 3-0 win in a friendly match played at Macquarie University Sports Field in Sydney today (August 28, 2018).

The star-studded Sydney FC had to wait till the 37th minute to open the scoring from Brosquey before Adam Le Fondre doubled the gap within 6 minutes. Indians were looking more threatening after the breather but a low strike from Trent Buhagiar in the 86th minute sealed the tie for the Sky Blues.

Coach Stephen Constantine rang as many as five changes to the starting eleven from the last match against APIA Tigers FC as Davinder Singh, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Hitesh Sharma and Vinit Rai made way for Subhasish Bose, Salam Ranjan Singh, Nandha Kumar, Germanpreet Singh and Anirudh Thapa respectively.

As the coach predicted earlier, the hosts started dictating the game since the kick-off but their efforts were thwarted by the resilient Indian defence until the 37th minute when Brosquey headed a cross from Michael Zullo home.

Six minutes later, renowned English attacker, Adam Le Fondre found the back of the net from a close range to double the lead before the teams headed to the dressing room.

After the breather, Constantine tweaked in three changes in the form of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vinit Rai and Manvir Singh withdrawing Nandha Kumar, Germanpreet Singh and Farukh Choudhary respectively.

After the hour-mark, Ashique Kuruniyan came very close to break the deadlock but his firing shot went off the target.

Indians started to push the A-League powerhouse further in their quest for the elusive goal but finally, Trent Buhagiar poached another goal four minutes to the end of the regulation time to confirm a win for the Sky Blues during their pre-season.

Constantine felt they wanted a ‘tough game’ and this one was nothing less than a ‘very good lesson’ for the team.

“We knew very well that it was going to be a tough test against a terrific team and certainly, it was. Our boys were a little surprised with their speed and constant movement but overall, it was a very good lesson for us”, he added further, “We got better as the game progressed and created a few opportunities as well. Overall, we wanted a tough game and we were presented with one. Now, we know more about ourselves as a team and of course, as individuals.”

India are scheduled to play their third game Down Under against Rydalmere Lions FC on August 31, 2018. Kick-off is at 12:30 PM IST.