Stricken India ready for Laos challenge

Peep into the national team camp and it won’t be hard to discover the mood. Not everything at the moment is green. There are almost 11 players ruled out, six of whom, national coach Stephen Constantine feels would have "started against Laos."

The Indian national team during a pool session in Vientiane, Laos.   -  AIFF

India faces a big challenge against Laos in the qualifying round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup as a loss could create a vacuum. A win would keep it in contention for a berth at Asia's biggest international tournemant in UAE.

Peep into the national team camp and it won’t be hard to discover the mood. Not everything at the moment is green. There are almost 11 players ruled out, six of whom, national coach Stephen Constantine feels would have “started against Laos.”

“A number of our key players are unfortunately injured. In fact, in our last practice session, we lost another promising youngster who might have started,” he said in the pre-match press conference. “But there’s no point looking back and crying. We are ready with what we have.”

‘Ready with what we have,’ – it defines the attitude, the mentality, the spirit. It’s the patch on which the new-look squad prefers to walk on, and walk with authority.

“Every team plays to win. We will play hard. Some of our players may be playing their first international match but I believe in their abilities,” he adds.

Captain Sunil Chhetri, who has had some idea of Laos’ football while playing for Bengaluru FC against Laos Toyota FC mentioned “they are a good side.”

“Some of my teammates have been in Laos before but for me this is the first time. Seven or eight players of Laos played for Laos Toyota FC against Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup. The first time, they won 2-1; the second time, we won 2-1. It will not be an easy game,” he certified. “We look forward to take as much information from the coach and give our best on the field.”

Constantine mentions about the misleading trend to “judge teams by their FIFA rankings.”

“There’s a tendency to judge teams by FIFA rankings. But we know that Laos have some good players whom we watched in the AFC Cup against Bengaluru FC. On top of that they would be playing at home. So we expect it to be difficult,” he adds.

Valakone Phomphukdy, head coach of Laos, admitted that playing at home “serves as an advantage.”

“Our friendly against Nepal was good. It helped us to test our strategy as to what we need to do against India. We have had some two weeks’ preparation for this match. Playing at home serves as an advantage. Some of our players have had the experience of playing against Bengaluru FC,” he stated.

“We have been mentally preparing ourselves as to what it means to win for your country,” he said.

2014 AIFF Player of the Year Eugeneson Lyngdoh stressed on the importance of the match. “It’s a very important match for India’s football history. We want to see the national team competing against the best in Asia for the next two-three years and unless we get something from this match, the door may close. For us to go forward, it’s do or die,” he quipped.

The sentiment stays the same when you walk into each of the rooms. ‘Give your Best.’ The kick-off at the National Stadium in Laos is on June 2.

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