Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine has stressed on the need of playing against strong opponents, ahead of their final World Cup Qualifier match against Turkmenistan in Kochi. He also felt that, so far, the team has achieved all the objectives that were set when he joined a year back.
India has lost six of their seven World Cup Qualifier matches so far, including a 4-0 defeat to Iran in their last game. When asked about what he would take back from this qualification campaign, Constantine said, “I would say we’ve learnt quite a lot. We’ve learnt that you can’t stand still. We’ve learnt that you cannot stop looking for players. Of the 23 players that played, quite a few of them are 20 years plus and were never used before. We’ve also learnt that if you don’t play internationals against good sides consistently, you are not going to learn. I would rather lose 4-0 to Iran than beat somebody from the south region 4-0. I will learn more from that game than any win,
“We want to improve, we want to develop and I think the only way to do that is by testing yourself against good, strong, quality opponents. And, I think that’s what we lack. We played one very good team, Iran; they are one of the best. Guam, according to many of the media, a population of 90,000, but you didn’t count the 320 million Americans who qualify to play for Guam. So, they are not a bad side either as you can see.”
Despite being at the bottom of Group D, in the second round of the AFC World Cup Qualification tournament, Constantine insisted that the team has met all the targets which were set at the beginning.
“It’s a continual process. So, you build a team in a year. I have just been here for over a year and I think we have achieved more or less the objectives that we set out in the beginning. That’s my opinion,” he told in the pre-match press conference.
Constantine emphasized on the need to play against stronger teams in order to improve and learn as a unit. He claimed that the South Asian teams do not pose any challenge for his side.
“I’m always looking to play teams that are better than us. We learn more from that. It’s a test for the players. I mean, with no due respect to some of the other teams in the south Asian region, we should be beating them. We should be dominating the south region. And this year we did with a team of players who have no clubs; some players in the army; some players have not played for their clubs; some are in academies. We had three or four key players that we did not select because of injury and another three or four we did not select because we left them to play for their clubs.
“My aim is to build something that’s going to be here for the next three, four or five years which is exactly what I did the last time 10 years ago. And, I think if you ask Bob Houghton he didn’t change anything for the first four years that he was here and he did pretty good, I think. So, I don’t know if that answers your question, holistically,” he explained.