India must play tougher opponents before Asian Cup: Eugeneson
By Abhishek Hore
New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) A vital cog in the Indian football team for some time, midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh says it must get to play adequate international friendlies against "tougher opponents" if it's to do well in the 2019 Asian Cup.
India secured their passage to the continental tournament after a 4-1 drubbing of Macau in Bengaluru last October.
"The team should play as many friendlies as possible, especially against tough opponents. This will only give us exposures and experience to up our game for the bigger matches and tournaments. This will also help the coach to put in the best team going into the Asia Cup," Eugeneson told PTI.
The 31-year-old central midfielder is currently recovering from a knee injury which he picked up during ATK's match against Jamshedpur FC in the initial phase of the fourth season of the Indian Super League.
Eugeneson, who has had a successful career at Bengaluru FC before moving to ATK, acknowledged that this year is very important for the national team.
"I will not shy away from saying that we are not the best team in Asia but we are improving. Maybe 2011 was not the best Asia Cup we had but the team played really well. It was a really good team , which had put some really good performance."
In the 2011 edition, India suffered heavy defeats against South Korea, Australia and Bahrain and were knocked out in the first round itself.
"Next year going into Asia Cup, all I can say is the players, the management and everyone involved will give their best. We can't predict the results, but one thing that I can assure you of is that we will give our 100 percent. Let's hope we get some positive results.
"2018 will be very important. We need to play as many matches as possible. We have a good team that can challenge any team. Let's hope there are no major injuries to our key players, which is always important. Let's remove every negativity that haunts the national team."
Eugeneson was in the Capital last week for the launch of Adidas' Tango League.
"This is an excellent initiative taken once again by adidas to bring in the Tango League to India. It is an extremely popular concept across the leading football playing nations and is an ideal platform for young footballers to showcase their skills and get recognised."
Eugeneson, meanwhile, refuted reports that there was a rift between national coach Stephen Constantine and top players.
"It's just another rumour which we keep hearing. We all share a very good relationship with our coach, all the senior players share a good relationship among each other and with the coach," he said.
"If the players do not share a good rapport with each other or the coach, that will reflect in the team performance. However, the team equation is quite evident and the results speak for itself with us qualifying for the Asia Cup after a gap of eight years, with a match in hand."
While breaking into the top 100 for the first time in two decades, India went through a 13-match unbeaten run in international football till Kyrgyzstan ended it with a 2-1 win in an inconsequential final group game of the AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
"Football is moving in the right direction. There can always be a debate on the pace but for sure we are moving in the right direction. The national team broke into top 100 in FIFA ranking," the player from Meghalaya said.
"Even at club level Bengaluru FC reached the final of the AFC Cup and then played semis last year. This year, the ISL was really exciting with a lot of team competing till the last match to make it to top 4. As far as I-League is concerned, it had a nail biting finish with 4 teams fighting to be champion on the last game