NEW DELHI: With India having being drawn with Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar and Macau in Group A of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019, National Coach Stephen Constantine disagrees with the generic perception that India have been handed an “easy draw.” In a freewheeling interview with www.the-aiff.com, Constantine speaks at length about the preparatory Camp, the challenges ahead, ‘new faces’ and much more. EXCERPTS:
You were present as one of the invitees for the draw of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019. What was your first impression?
On paper it looks favourable. It does give us the hope that we have a legitimate chance to qualify from the group.
You say ‘on paper it looks favourable.’ What do you mean by that?
I need to take you back to the draw of the World Cup Qualifiers where we were drawn with Guam and Turkmenistan and there was a generic feeling all around – ‘no problem, we will have it easy.’ Myanmar has made it to the final of the Suzuki Cup and on the back of qualifying on merit to the FIFA U-20 World Cup under their German Coach, they are a very difficult team to play at home.
What do you feel about Kyrgyz Republic and Macau?
Let us take one match at a time. There are no easy games for us.
When will you assemble with your Team?
The plan is to assemble on the weekend of March 11/12 (2017) as the players would start to assemble after their respective Hero I-League games. But there would be boys who would be involved in the AFC Cup and we will only have them available some days later.
Will you be playing a Friendly match prior to our first game?
Given that we are playing an away game first, we want to play an International Friendly on our way to Myanmar. It would benefit us to have valuable match practice as the intensity of International Football is entirely of a different level than domestic football. Let me reiterate, Myanmar won’t ever be an easy opposition away or even at home.
Will we see new faces at the Camp?
I have always said the Players who do the work will get the opportunity. The door is open to each and every Indian Player who qualifies to play for India. Myself and Venky (Shanmugam Venkatesh) are following the Hero I-league very closely and watching players. We will make our selections based on what we know and what we see.