“I would rather play Iran and lose 4-0 then play Bhutan and win 5-0”, Says Indian Coach Stephen Constantine

On the eve of the match against Puerto Rico, Coach Stephen Constantine, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri attended the pre-match press conference to address the media while their opponent gave it a miss after failing to reach India on their scheduled date. The Puerto Rican side had missed their connecting flight from New York and as result they were yet to reach India, having lost valuable time to get acclimatize and practice. But still coach Constantine refused to call it as advantage to his team.

When asked about it, SC said, “We will find out about that tomorrow.” Adding, “Look, They have a difficult schedule, nothing I can do about that. My team, my players at the end of the day has to play football to beat them. They have a good side, good players; it’s not the first time teams arriving late, so really I won’t consider it advantage. I will say that after the game.”

Last time India beat a higher ranked team (min.30 places) It was Kuwait (Ranked 60) back in 2004 under the same coach. When asked about how he motivates his players, SC replied, “I think, whenever you wear the Indian jersey, you should be motivated, whether you play Bhutan or Iran. The fact that we play Puerto Rico, 30 or 40 places above us is incentive to us like we played Iran or Oman in Qualifiers.” SC believed that matches against higher ranked teams are necessary if we have to move higher, He added, “I would rather play Iran and lose 4-0 then play Bhutan and win 5-0, I would learn a lot from the Iran game than the Bhutan one.” He said he would continue to look for such games and the media should understand the importance’s of such games, rather than just criticizing about the loss.”It is a developmental process. The average age of our team is 23, I think, so it’s about learning and getting better” opined Constantine.

When asked about his assessment of the opponents, SC believed that the Puerto Rican team had a good number of players playing in and outside US. They were the highest movers in July so whatever team they bring, will be a team that will test India. Regarding the game tomorrow against the tired opponent, Constantine compared them with Guam saying,”A lot of people wrote off Guam, who had 9 of their starting 11 players playing in US, so now we know the level of their players. There is an actual Puerto Rico team in NASL, So they would be a good team, a good side, a little tired but again, nothing I can do about that.” While adding, “But from technical point of view and organizational point of view I would expect them to be good.”

Also Read: India vs Puerto Rico: Is an upset on the cards?

When asked about Sunil chhetri’s fitness, after he was not selected in the last two games and whether there would be any alternatives. SC shot back that, there is no alternative for Sunil Chhetri and that he would not risk a player to play with injuries or niggles and lose a season, but he is fine now and ready to go.

Football back in Mumbai

Regarding football returning to the city for the first time in 61 years, SC opined it was about time and that it was a long overdue while thanking MDFA, Aditya Thackeray for the work that they had done so the team could play in Mumbai. He believed that the team should play in every major cities of the country, so that the people of India could get to see their team play. Constantine also said about how his team would play attacking football, “We would play the attacking game; they are tired, if not tired, we make them tired. We would just go out play football and win the game.”

When asked his opponents style of play, SC seemed to have done his homework, He described how they have slow buildup with more of a passing among players similar to other South American sides, and how they played well against US despite losing, creating 3-4 no. of good chances and the goal which emerged from a fantastic three one-touch passes. So they would be dangerous tired or not. Also the missing players are filled by two coming from the Spain.

Before wrapping up the pre-match media conference, Constantine announced, “Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will captain the team tomorrow against Puerto Rico.” It will be a huge boost to the 24-year-old, who would become one of the youngest players to lead the national football team.

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