Bangalore: Praising India’s qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, coach Stephen Constantine said the current team are one of the best in country’s football history.
“This is one of the best teams in the history of Indian football, if not the best,” Constantine told reporters late Wednesday night after India beat Macau 4-1 in a qualifier match at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here.
This is the fourth time India have qualified for the Asian Cup. In 1964, India participated in the tournament for the first time and ended runners- up. In 1984 and 2011, they crashed out in the group stages.
Replying to a query, Constantine stated he is extremely proud of the boys who had taken his demands earnestly, during the training and practice sessions. “I thank my staff … everybody has been magnificent. It is a huge thing for Indian football. It is not only an honour for the team, but the whole country. Right from clubs and coaches, everyone have played their part to see the success,” he said. “The team had some ups and downs, though. But then they were always resilient,” he added.
Constantine however, did not clarify whether he would test the bench strength in the remaining two games which are inconsequential for India. However, he asserted that he would like to see India finish on top in the group. “If you want us sitting out for the next two games, I am not going to sit out, for sure,” India captain Sunil Chhetri intervened even before the coach could reply.
Chhetri also said that the failure to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup still rankles him and he is determined to prove his prowess in the upcoming edition of the tournament.
“I was there when we missed out in 2015 and that still hurts me,” Chhetri told reporters. “This is the tournament we play for, keeping in mind that it is virtually impossible for us to play in the World Cup. We get to rub our shoulders against best in Asia which we don’t get many times,” he added.
Chhetri lauded his teammates for their performance. “Amazing feeling. We have worked hard for this. Quite a tough group we had. Just four teams qualified. It shows our hard work. We will keep working hard,” he stated.
“We can’t lose our cool. The goal we conceded was against the run of play. Balwant (Singh) had great pace and set it up for me to finish,” added the Indian skipper.
Press Trust of India