Mumbai: A fairly impressive AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign being the confidence-booster, the Indian football team will begin their preparations for the continental showpiece by taking on Chinese Taipei in the lung-opener of the Intercontinental Cup here Friday.
The four-nation tournament, with teams from three separate continents – Chinese Taipei, Kenya and New Zealand – apart from the hosts, was conceptualised to test the Indian team ahead of the Asian Cup to be played in the UAE, January 5 and February 1, next year.
India will enter Friday’s match with a psychological advantage as they are the highest ranked side at 97th, besides also having an impressive head-to-head record against the East Asians. India have beaten Chinese Taipei thrice while drawing once in the past decade.
India’s coach Stephen Constantine, however, is not ready to think about history. “I am not one for records as teams and players change all the time and they (Chinese Taipei) will be coming to try and beat us. Under Gray White, they have improved and will be organised. We will show them the respect they deserve, but of course winning the game is our aim,” he stated.
Constantine also said that his team would need to be tactically prepared to shine in the tournament. “Each team would be different. Kenya and New Zealand will be giving us different problems. Physically we are prepared and we need to now prepare tactically,” Constantine informed.
“I am aware of the quality of the players whom Kenya and New Zealand have brought in and they are playing all across Europe,” added the Indian coach.
Two games shy of his 100th international match, captain Sunil Chhetri said that there is much more ‘awareness about the game’ in general among players and fans.
“The boys have more knowledge about the do’s and don’ts. They are willing to take care of themselves and their nutrition,” Chhetri asserted.
The 33-year-old Chhetri who has 56 international goals to his name, stressed that he and his team are ready for the multi-nation tournament. “I am fully fit and we are ready for the challenge and we hope to do well,” Chhetri asserted.