Ahead of India’s clash with UAE, coach Stephen Constantine said that the Blue Tigers will put on a great contest, despite the hosts being a better side on the paper. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the coach said, “We know all the three games are going to be very tough. There’ll be no easy game at this level. But we’ll go toe-to-toe with them. A game is not played on paper, but on the pitch. The UAE are the hosts and will be under pressure. It’s understandable they will go for all three points.” He further added: “They are a physical, as well as a skillful side. I am not worried about our fitness. We have to play our best game to get the result.”
After registering a thumping 4-1 victory over Thailand in the tournament opener, India will take on hosts UAE in their second clash on Thursday. UAE, currently ranked 79 in the FIFA rankings, have met India 13 times, out of which India have emerged victorious only on three occasions, while UAE have picked up eight wins. The last time the two teams played was back in 2011 at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi which ended in 2-2 draw with Jeje Lalpekhula striking the equaliser for India.
Praising the Mizo striker, the coach said, “Jeje is a very good player. But unfortunately, he did not have much game time recently. You put Jeje in the position and he will score for you. I was so happy that he scored the goal against Thailand. He deserves to get the goal, especially at this level.”
Constantine also praised, India’s center-forward Sunil Chhetri for his goal-scoring abilities. The Bengaluru FC skipper on Sunday netted twice to surpass Argentina great Lionel Messi in the highest scoring active player’s list.
“Sunil has always given everything whenever he has played for the National Team. I can’t complain about this. He is there to do his job and his job is to score goals. He has a phenomenal scoring record and we’re better with him in the team,” Constantine said.
He also pointed out that India lost possession several times during their clash against Thailand, which pushed the opponent into an advantageous position. “Against Thailand, we gave the ball away too many times which put the opposition in an advantageous position. We have to look after the ball better. I feel we started a bit nervous,” he said. He added that India cannot afford to do the same against UAE. “Some young boys were too eager to press. We can’t repeat it against UAE,” he said.