AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers: Stephen Constantine sets big goals for his young Indian squad
India have been placed in a relatively easy group in the qualifiers.
What’s the story?
Indian national football team coach Stephen Constantine has set big goals for his relatively inexperienced squad for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. According to him, qualifying for the finals of the tournament is mandatory.
Ahead of the team’s scheduled practice session at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai, he said, “No tie is easy and the road is a long one. We are aiming to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asia Cup and it is certainly a feasible one.”
The British coach also clarified on his team selection choices, stating, “Discipline off the pitch is paramount as is the performance on the pitch. The objective of a player is to catch the eye of the coach and that’s when he gets a call to the National Team. The player then needs to work hard enough to make it to the final squad. His objective is to be in the starting XI and the hardest part is to stay in the starting XI.”
Constantine’s selections have drawn irk from fans and pundits alike, especially his dropping of Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumdar. He has also handed debuts to over 25 different young players during his reign, to varying degrees of success.
The lack of some experienced faces in the squad has raised questions about Constantine’s selection procedures as well.
The heart of the matter
India have been placed in a relatively easy group in the qualifiers and it would be nothing short of a disaster if they do not qualify for the tournament. For youngsters like Milan Singh, Jerry Lalrinzula and Nishu Kumar, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove their mettle and they are confident that they can prove their detractors wrong.
Coincidentally, if they manage to impress, it will also be a big win for the All India Football Federation’s Youth Development Programme, which has produced these talented footballers. Seasoned campaigners like Subroto Paul and Jackichand Singh are yet to join the camp but they are expected to join soon.
The Indian national team are currently gearing up for their International Friendly against Cambodia on March 22 and then they will kick off their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers against Myanmar on March 28. These two matches should give us a fair idea of which direction this gifted but uninitiated team is headed.
Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players will also be joining the national camp soon, and that should further strengthen the squad. Constantine has a decent history managing the team, and one hopes he can deliver on the expectations come 2019.