Published: Sun, May 06, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Stephen Constantine: We can qualify for the knockout stages

Stephen Constantine: We can qualify for the knockout stages

The Arjuna awardee believes that there is not much difference in the level of India and Thailand and with good planning, India can advance past the group stage. There is not much difference between Thailand and Indian football.

India had lost to Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and even to Guam in their away matches of the World Cup qualifiers.

Although India are now ranked 97th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings, the skipper said whatever his side achieved in the past will not help the team in the future and he does not take rankings too seriously. It also reached the Asian Cup in 2011 and 2015.

"UAE is ahead of us and they are playing at home". We played Thailand 6-7 years ago and it was a 2-2 draw and now, they are competing with the best in Asia.

"If you compare it to the 2011 draw - where we were placed with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain - it's not as bad". They are now ranked 15th in Asia and had recently broken into the top 100 in the world rankings after a long gap thanks to a 13-match unbeaten streak.

"I never take rankings seriously". I'm happy that we have broken inside the top 100 but the way it works is very tricky.

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Chhetri feels the current side has challenges that the previous bunch to play the Asia Cup didn't. Youngsters like me could learn from Steven, Gourmangi and Renedy. Everyone is very young and dynamic but that team was more solid and fixed and the boys had already known each other. The current squad in contrast is still a work in progress. But we learnt a lot. Apart from me and (Subrata) Pal and may be Jeje (Lalpekhlua), everyone is a youngster and eyeing a place in the team. He scored two goals out of three by his team in the 2011 edition in Doha.

"Now they have a chance to get a little bit of revenge against us", Milicic said.

The opportunity, Chhetri admits, is huge.

Nonetheless, the star striker said his team "should look to take maximum points in their first match" if they they want to proceed further in the tournament. Right now we are in the top 15 in Asia. But we can't say it is UAE, Thailand and Bahrain and so it is easier. It is a long journey for us. That's a tournament we're going to and he's brought in some excellent staff with him.

"In that match, we did not turn up at all". He took a Dutch team to the final of the World Cup. The team is now lagging behind relatively uncompetitive Asian teams compared to its best FIFA Ranking of 37th in 2004. "And it's good to try and get that so soon after that memorable night we had in Sydney. Then, we are going to go and put up a fight there and let's see what happens", Chhetri spoke.

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