Before taking on hosts UAE in their second match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, coach Stephen Constantine stressed that the “game is played on the pitch, not on paper.”
“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,” Constantine expressed.
The match which is scheduled to be played at the gigantic Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, January 10 and will be telecast live on Star Sports 2, 3 and will also be streamed live on Hotstar. The kick-off is slated for 9.30pm IST.
UAE are currently ranked 79 in the FIFA rankings, and they have been on the winning side on eight occasions against India out of 13 matches played between the two sides. The Blue Tigers have won thrice.
The last encounter between these two sides which took place at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi in 2011 had ended in a 2-2 draw, with the last goal being scored by Jeje Lalpekhlua.
“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,” the coach was all praise for the Mizo sniper.
Constantine added:, “They are a physical, as well as a skilful side. I am not worried about our fitness. We have to play our best game to get the result.”
Sunil Chhetri, who added another two to his International goal scoring tally in the last outing, also earned huge plaudits from the coach. The two goals took him to 67, surpassing 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,” the Coach maintained.
“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. Some young boys were too eager to press. We can’t repeat it against UAE.”
Meanwhile, deploying Ashique Kuruniyan upfront alongside Sunil Chhetri proved to be a perfect masterstroke by the 55-year-old coach. When he was asked whether he has any further trickery up his sleeves, he quipped: “You have to wait and see.”