Intercontinental Cup 2018: Stephen Constantine hails Blue Pilgrims as the "12th man"
The gaffer of the Indian national football team was clearly one of the happiest men after clinching the Intercontinental Cup title and lavished praises on the vociferous crowd whom he hailed as the “12th man”. Stephen Constantine along with his bunch of boys would now look forward to the AFC Asian Cup in UAE next year.
The Indian national team were crowned champions of the 2018 Intercontinental Cup after the Blue Tigers defeated Harambee Stars, 2-0 in the final, on a day when captain marvellous Sunil Chhetri led by example and scored a brace. He has now come on par with Lionel Messi in the top active goalscorers’ list with 64 goals in 102 matches till now.
Chhetri and co. were in for a special treat as the Mumbaikars braved the massive downpour and waterlogging to watch the final and they were deafening enough throughout the 90 minutes, making the atmosphere electric, to say the least.
The Blue pilgrims had special plans for this day; bringing out the TIFO culture in this part of the country, as they unveiled a huge TIFO of the “Blue Tigers’ and rechristened the whole stand into the Indian tri-color.
Acknowledging the huge support, the India head coach commented, "The crowd was technically the extra man; the 12th man we needed. The way they showed up in last 2 or 3 games is unbelievable”.
The Englishman was full of praises for his players and continued, “But I have to give credits to the players. They were equally tremendous and the work rate was amazing. Especially in the second half when Kenya put up the pressure and pressed hard, the guys did well and I'm proud of them."
"The Kenyans showed how tough they are. They played two days ago and yet put up a tough fight", as he appreciated the vanquished Kenyan side, who couldn’t avail several of their first team players due to their domestic schedule including Tottenham star Victor Wanyama and Girona FC prodigy Micheal Olunga.
Constantine was quick to shift his focus to the continental extravaganza coming up in next year, January in UAE. "The tournament was very satisfactory. We needed to win the tournament but the vision is for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. It's the thing. I know how big and important it is for the country," stated the national team head coach.
"There are areas we can get better and improve. We know we have a huge task for Asian Cup. We would have teams which are a step above Kenya in the tournament. The character and resilience impressed me the most," he added
dia will be putting their all hopes on their captain, leader, legend — Sunil Chhetri — who has been in red-hot form off late. The Indian skipper was adjudged as the Player of the Tournament for scoring eight times including a hat-trick and braces of brace — bettering his previous best of seven goals in a single tournament and his coach was looking frantically for words to describe his performance.
"Sunil has been phenomenal. He is unbelievably fit. He looks after himself. He's able to maintain his fitness since he's very professional," concluded the 55-year-old Englishman as his sight is now set on the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.