India's tie with Nepal is far from over, insists coach Stephen Constantine
KATHMANDU: In the morning, the chill disappears; the sun reappears – not that scorching but a bit lazy even as those white cotton clouds float overhead.
It was a little less than two years back when the then national team camped in the same hotel in Kathmandu, played against the same opposition, and in the same stadium -- the memories of which were not that pleasant.
That was then, today is different -- Confidence, spirits, camaraderie, work rate, teamwork, accountability, a lot has changed and in less than two weeks.
Ahead of India’s 2018 World Cup Qualifiers Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 away match against Nepal, Constantine’s memories of Nepal, nevertheless, are “pleasant.”
At the official pre-match media interaction, Constantine declared that he will “always have a soft corner for Nepal,” only to add, “Tomorrow will be another match for me in Nepal, but that will be with the Indian Team.”
The very next moment he insisted the “match is far from over.”
“The first half has just been over. It is still to be played,” Constantine stated. “If you ask me, 2-0 is a very deceiving scoreline. If Nepal score, the game changes. I have said this from the very beginning that this will be a very difficult task for us. The game is still available for both teams,” he added.
“With a vociferous crowd backing them, Nepal will want to score an early goal which would give them the momentum to push ahead. We need to prevent that. We need to maintain the shape and discipline.”
The same sentiment was echoed by Nepal head coach Jack Stefanowski who sounded a confident note mentioning that the match is all “about pride.”
“The result in the first-leg was disappointing for us. It added to our confidence playing against a good team. This is our home match and we are confident,” he informed.
“In Guwahati, we started to go away from our game plan and in the last two days we have worked on it again. It’s our home match and we aim to level scores and then go for the kill.”
Speaking to the AIFF, Constantine further maintained that he respected Nepal as a team.
“The onus is now on them to score three goals and I think if we are able to maintain our shape and discipline, we should qualify for the next phase. However, we won’t sit back and allow Nepal to dictate the game. Obviously we are optimistic that we can do that ourselves and that’s what we want if we are to advance.”
Complementing his coach, captain Subrata Paul also wasn’t much willing to read much into the 2-0 victory in Guwahati.
“That is past. This is a new game, a new challenge. We will approach this game afresh and it’s tough for us. Most importantly, it’s an away game for us,” he said at the official pre-match media interaction.
“It’s important for us to stick to our job and instructions of our Coach,” he said pointed at Constantine sitting next. “This is a very important match for Indian football and we will fight.”
“The young guns have settled in very fast. We are all part of one big family where everyone is there for the other both on and off the pitch. We need to continue like that, and we will,” the captain opined.
Referring to Constantine fielding seven debutants in the home leg, everyone were curious as to what his starting line-up will be. “You will be answered tomorrow,” Constantine replied.
The match at the Dasrath Stadium in Kathmandu kicks-off at IST 3.30pm on Tuesday (March 17).