India vs Laos: Sunil Chhetri wants to win it for the fans
The Indian contingent weighs in ahead of their crucial AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Laos.
Indian go into the all-important clash against Laos tomorrow with the hope of booking a place in the next round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier. The Blue Tigers who have a slender one goal advantage from their away leg victory last week, would like to drive home the advantage.
Speaking to the media before tomorrow’s clash in Guwahati, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri sounded cautiously optimistic. “We are approaching the game from scratch and the only advantage that we have is that we have played them and we know them. Apart from that, there is no advantage. But we are ready for Laos and we need to win this match for the fans.” claimed the 31-year-old.
India recorded their first away victory in an international game since 2001 in the first leg when Jeje Lalpekhlua headed home a Udanta Singh cross in the 56th minute to seal a memorable victory. India’s coach Stephen Constantine ,however, has voiced that the Indian team, will not be taking things lightly.
“Laos are not a bad side and they worked very hard in the 1st leg. We have to concentrate on tomorrow’s game and aim to win.It starts 0-0 tomorrow and we have no room for complacency against them (Laos). We respect Laos but we will try to beat them,” said the Englishman who is in his second stint as India’s coach after taking over the reins last year.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Stephen Constantine’s number one choice between the posts sounded excited at finally having clinched the position away from India’s “spider-man” Subrata Paul. But added that Paul’s performances in the past make it “huge boots" to fill.
“I have learnt a lot from Subrata-bhai and therefore, it is a huge honour for me to fill his boots. At the same time, it is very important for me to perform every single time I play for India because I am trying to fill in the boots of a legend,” quipped India’s goalkeeper.
Sandhu recently became the first ever Indian player to play in a top-tier European league game when he made his Tippeligaen debut for the Norwegian side Stabaek when they toppled Start 5-0 about a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Valkaone Pomphakdy, Laos’ head coach, conceded that they were lucky not to concede more goals in the first leg and adjudged India to be “a good side with a lot of potential.”
However, he believes, that his side will have the advantage of playing with no pressure and expects his team to relish the challenge.
India will look to put behind the blues of a dismal World Cup qualifying campaign and take another step towards booking a place in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers, who are currently ranked 163 (13 places above Laos) in the FIFA rankings will be without regulars such as Robin Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh, Rowlin Borges, Bikash Jairu, Cavin Lobo and Pronay Halder, will hope that they will have enough in their bag to pull off a timely victory.