Constantine: My duty is to protect Chhetri

Gurpreet Singh has been named captain in Chhetri's absence and will lead the team in Tuesday's friendly against Nepal.

Replying to a query about the home team rated the favourite as compared to underdogs, Constantine replied, “FIFA ranking is just one aspect, a number. It depends on a number of variations, results achieved by other nations also comes into consideration.”   -  AIFF MEDIA


Sunil Chhetri is likely to sit out the international friendly against Nepal, despite his recovery from a torn hamstring. The Indian national coach, Stephen Constantine, is clear about protecting his key player for tougher contests ahead, primarily the Asian Cup Qualifiers 2019. “He is certainly not playing the Nepal game, ” said the coach, answering queries about team composition. “There are still players staking a claim for places in the side against Krgyz Republic.”

Constantine is clear about the value Chhetri brings to the side, with his maturity, experience and leadership. “I would like to see Sunil lead the team in the Asian Cup competition (India is yet to qualify). He is up to the mark, as far as fitness is concerned, but is not 22 now. At his age (32 years), there is a tendency to pick up more injuries and he needs time to recover. It is my job to protect him.” The India coach stressed that handing out debuts to new faces was aimed at ensuring more options for each position.

Chhetri’s teammates on the Federation Cup-winning Bengaluru FC squad, Udanta Singh and C K Vineeth, are also unlikely to play. Fielding debutants or capable hands, India display a healthy respect for Nepal’s grit. “They are a hard-working side and will fight for the ball till they cannot fight anymore,” said Constantine. The two nations have played each other 18 times, with India having won 12 games against the four victories by the visitors and two drawn games.

Gurpreet Singh has been named captain in Chhetri’s  absence. India (ranked 100 in FIFA nations list) will face 169-ranked Nepal at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday. Replying to a query about the home team rated the favourite, instead of underdogs as it used to happen earlier, Constantine replied, “FIFA ranking is just one aspect, a number. It depends on a number of variations, results achieved by other nations also comes into consideration.”

The national coach brought up AIFF president Praful Patel’s recent statement that getting into FIFA’s top 50 should be India’s next target. “I applaud his optimism,” said Constantine, adding, “To get into the first 50 (FIFA football-playing countries), we need to work hard. India should be playing the Asian Cup, World Cup qualification should happen. "Overcoming Krgyz Repulbic (ranked 132) is the immediate task, the friendly against Nepal is a testing ground," he added.

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