An ‘empty’ game but India not lacking in motivation

Placed 47 spots above India at 113 in the FIFA World rankings and in third spot in the group with 10 points, Turkmenistan, which beat India 2-1 at home in Ashgabat in October, should be the favourite to win the game despite Kochi’s heat and humidity.

The Indian football team, along with head coach Stephen Constantine (R) trains ahead of its World Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan.   -  H. Vibhu

For a side which forced the mighty Iran to a draw earlier and which defeated Oman 2-1 in its last encounter, Turkmenistan had very little to say about its team ahead of its World Cup football qualifier against India here on Monday.

Almost all the questions put to the Turkmenistan Head Coach Amangylyç Koçumow produced a mumbled response at the Holiday Inn here. > Sunil Chhetri: We need 200 per cent support

With both teams out of the qualification race for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, they may not have much to play for, but one can expect the visitor’s boots to do the talking when it takes on bottom-placed India in a Group ‘D’ qualifier at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.

Placed 47 spots above India at 113 in the FIFA World rankings and in third spot in the group with 10 points, Turkmenistan, which beat India 2-1 at home in Ashgabat in October, should be the favourite to win the game despite Kochi’s heat and humidity.

Sitting at the bottom of the five-team group with three points, with just one victory and with 23 players who made their national debut this year, India may not have much to play for but head coach Stephen Constantine made it clear that his boys were not lacking in motivation.

“Well, we are playing for India, at home and playing an international game, So, we have no problem in motivating ourselves to play for the country and am sure the boys will give everything they have,” said Constantine.

He was clear that the match would be a tough test for his injury-hit team despite Turkmenistan’s poor away record. “Turkmenistan is a very good side, obviously getting a point against Iran gives you an idea of how good they are. They will be a strong test for us. We don’t get any easy games but we will give everything we can and we will try to beat them,” said the Englishman.



INJURY-HIT TEAM

With some of its top stars, including striker Robin Singh and the 2015 AIFF Player of the Year Eugeneson Lyngdoh on the injured list and with captain Sunil Chhetri missing the last game against Iran with a groin injury, India could never field a settled side in its World Cup qualifying campaign.



LAST-MINUTE DECISION

Chhettri, the country’s highest goal scorer in international football, is back in the team but Constantine said that he would decide whether to include him in the eleven just before the game.

“He has improved in the last week but it will be an absolute last-minute decision whether we play him or not,” he said. “Obviously, he’s the captain of this team, he’s a leader, he has great influence and we will wait for the last minute to see if he is fit to play but he himself desperately wants to play.”