India to test new-look squad against Mauritius

It may not be of much help but the Indian football team will look to get some practice ahead of its AFC Asian Cup Qualifier game when it takes on lower-ranked Mauritius in the tri-nation series opener here on Saturday.

The Indian team during a training session at the Mumbai Football Arena on Friday.

 

Mauritius has a curious mix of players with roots in France, England and Germany. With dreams of making a mark in Europe and plying their trade in Africa, the players of the 160-ranked nation are in India to play the Tri-Nation Football Tournament in Mumbai Football Arena and will play the event opener against the host on Saturday night. The team, coached by Brazilian Francisco Filho, has players like Jonathan Bru and Kevin Bru who have experience playing club football in Europe.

And India coach Stephen Constantine is looking forward to expose his relatively young side to different styles of play.

He said: “Having watched a few Mauritius matches, we have respect for them. They play in Africa and St Kitts (third team in the fray) play the Caribbean way. I am happy to have two opponents who will give us different problems. St Kitts is not Jamaica, but play a different type of game.” 

The original plan was a four-nation competition involving teams from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. “I have got two teams, which will give me more time to try out players,” the coach said. 

Constantine is focused on using the match experience to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. “We need to play more Asian Cups to qualify for the World Cup,” he said. 

Defender Sandesh Jhingan will lead a new-look Indian squad sans players from Bengaluru FC.

On the responsibility of guiding the youngsters, most of whom are poised for international debut, Jhingan said: “At one time, I was a youngster coming into the national squad under the coach. We learnt, gained experience and I am now given the task of leading the squad. In the same way, the new players will benefit from playing international football against a different opponent.” 

Macau is the next opponent in India’s quest for a place among the Asian elite.

‘Gurpreet needs playing time to develop’

India’s first choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh’s career move from Norway club Stabaek to Bengaluru Fc was welcomed by national coach Stephen Constantine. “A decision has been taken and we need to accept that. Gurpeet was not getting playing time at Stabaek. I had spoken to him and told him that the only way to improve is to get into a team where he was likely to be given more playing opportunities. Bengaluru will give him time on the pitch,” the coach said. Gurpreet Singh is the first Indian footballer to feature in a Europa League tie during his Norway stint in 2014.