Constantine: ‘Indian football team’s nucleus set for next four-five years’

Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine talks about the team’s growth in the last few years.

“They have some very good players and are very well organised,” says Constantine about India’s opposition Kyrgyz Republic.   -  PTI

National football team coach Stephen Constantine feels his team has been able to “raise the bar in the last two years.” On a day when India retained its spot at 100th in the June FIFA Rankings, Constantine, in an interview, spoke at length about the significance of being in the top hundred.

With the international friendly against Nepal in the corner, the Indian coach talked about the current crop of Indian footballers, strength of India’s Asian Cup opponent Kyrgyz Republic, and the vocal support of I-League club fan groups such as Mumbai FC’s Yellow Brigade and Bengaluru FC’s West Block Blues.

EXCERPTS:

What does 100 (ranking) signify?

I understand we have been able to raise the bar over the last two years and that’s what the intent was. However, in the larger scheme of things we have not achieved anything. After our International Friendly against Nepal, we play against Kyrgyz Republic and they are a very dangerous and difficult opponent.

How far do you believe this bunch of Indian Footballers can reach?

As far as they want. I think the nucleus of this team is there for the next 4-5 years and right now we are focussing on the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 which is on the top of our priority list.

You have always maintained that every opposition is a ‘dangerous and difficult opponent.’

(Smiles). Some people do feel that I always make the other team look bigger than us. That’s because at the moment we are trying to establish ourselves in Asian Football. Once we are perpetually qualifying to the AFC Asian Cup and to the final qualifying stages of the World Cup from Asia, we can start to think and feel we are a big team. We are not there yet but are on the right track.

What do you expect from Kyrgyz Republic?

They have some very good players and are very well organised. You think of the belt they are coming from and their neighbouring countries -- Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan – you will understand that they are all very capable players. They will be very difficult and we expect very difficult games, both at home and away.

What kind of support do you expect?

We are not in any position to underestimate anybody and the entire squad would be looking forward for the vocal support of the West Block Blues when we play them in Bengaluru on June 13 as much we would look forward for the vocal support from the Yellow Brigade when we play Nepal in Mumbai on June 6.

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