The “irreplaceable” Sunil Chhetri’s absence from the friendly against Jordan is a huge setback for India, head coach Stephen Constantine said Wednesday, staring at an uncertain future up front, with his talismanic striker starting to grey.
The 34-year-old Chhetri has been ruled out of the match on Novemeber 17 owing to an ankle injury. Constantine expressed concerns about the dearth of promising strikers and the void the country’s all-time leading scorer’s absence can create.
“Sunil missing for the clash against Jordan is a big blow for us. He is a great player and has been fantastic for us in the last four years. He is one of those players that is irreplaceable but somebody has to take his place for the match against Jordan. Sunil is no spring chicken,” Constantine said.
“However it is a great opportunity for young players to step up and although you cannot find a player of his calibre and class, we need to see if the young player step up and take this opportunity.”
The match is in preparation for the AFC Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in the UAE early in January-February 2019.
“We need to find somebody who will be there when we don’t have Sunil Chhetri so that there is no void left in the team,” Constantine said. “I am trying to cover all the bases and I don’t want my best players to remain injured and one of them right now is Sunil,” he added.
The match at Amman is an opportunity for the coach to experiment tactics and gain valuable experience going into the mega competition next year.
“We want to do well in our preparation for the Asian Cup and the clash against Jordan will aid us in that as Jordan are a good side and they have a number of good players in their ranks,” Constantine said.
“We need to play teams like Jordan leading up to the Asian Cup where we would be under pressure. Even the game against China was the same where if you commit a mistake around the 18 yard box, you can easily concede. However, both sides are good technical sides and both present different challenges.”
The clash against Jordan comes on the back of a goalless draw against a Marcelo Lippi-coached China last month.
“We have a plan that we would like to implement during the game and we have watched the teams a lot. We had watched China three to four times and we are prepared for the challenges that come our way,” he added.
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“Our preparation to the Asian Cup will also include a match against Oman and probably another friendly in December which is yet to be fixed.”
The Indian team departs for Jordan Thursday, after a three-day camp in the capital where 30 players were called, including 18-year-old FIFA U-17 World Cupper Komal Thatal.