NEW DELHI: As India gear up to take on the Kyrgyz Republic, National Coach Stephen Constantine “expects a similar game” as the first-leg in Bengaluru, adding that the team needs to “maintain it’s focus.” In an interview he speaks at length about the home-leg match, qualification to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the injured players and the missing link of Sunil Chhetri and EugenesonLyngdoh. EXCERPTS:
What do you expect from the Kyrgyz Republic as they are playing at home?
They are a very good side and we can expect a similar game as we had against them in Bengaluru. They have good quality all over the field but so do we. They also have the home advantage this time around. We have already qualified and will have to be very careful to maintain our focus and try to get the three points.
India have already qualified for the AFC Asian Cup the second time in 8 years. What does it mean for Indian Football?
I think it has been huge and when you look at the manner we qualified this time around, it has been very difficult. We played the playoffs for the World Cup qualifiers, the group stages for the WC Qualifiers, the playoffs for the Asian Cup qualifiers and the group stages again. The last time we qualified was in an8-nation competition in India and so it doesn’t compare.
The players and the staff deserve a great deal of credit for this achievement as does everyone at the AIFF it has been a total team effort from top to bottom.
Now that India have already qualified will your approach to the match be any different?
We always play to win. We have, however, a number of players who are out for the match. Sunil Chhetri is serving a double yellow booking, Eugeneson Lyngdoh is injured and so are Jackichand Singh and Nikhil Poojary.
Will the unavailability of Sunil Chhetri and Eugeneson Lyngdoh be a factor?
Yes, of course. Both are experienced players. The list is long and you need to add Jackichand, Nikhil and Sumeet Passi to it too. But this is football and the players replacing them should look at this as an opportunity to make an impression.
We have a long way to go before the Asian Cup Finals and a lot can happen between now and the finals. In between, we have the Intercontinental Cup, the SAFF Championship, the Asian Games and the FIFA International dates as well. There’s also a lot of football to be played at the domestic level.