Abu Dhabi, Jan 5 (PTI) The Indian football team set to compete in the Asian Cup has got rid of their old mindset of finishing as respectable losers since he took charge for the second time, feels head coach Stephen Constantine.
Addressing the pre-match press conference ahead of India’s campaign opener against Thailand in the Asian Cup on Sunday, Constantine said his players would try their best to qualify for the knock-out rounds.
“I think it is the mentality of the players,” he said when asked what was the biggest change in the team since he took over in 2015.
“When I arrived (in India) four years ago, it was like go and play the game and not lose by too many goals. That has changed over the four years. We are not going to a game thinking about losing. We go out there thinking we are going to win and that is the biggest change,” said the 56-year-old Constantine.
He said the workload of the players have also increased over the four years and the players have given “phenomenal” effort in training and in games.
The Anglo-Cypriot, who was also India head coach in 2002-05 before a second stint in 2015, said his side’s first target was to qualify for the Round of 16 from the group.
“It is a big event but we have no pressure on us. We have a young side, I think ours is the second youngest side in this Asian Cup and youngest ever in the history of Indian football. The future is bright and we are going to try to qualify from the group. I can assure you that we will do everything on the pitch,” the coach said.
Talking about the opening match against Thailand on Sunday, he said,”Thailand are a very technical side and they have got a number of good players. They are in top form, run around a lot and interchange very well. But we believe we are ready for them.
“Thailand will be as difficult as UAE or Bahrain. There are no easy games for us and we are taking one game at a time.” Hosts UAE and Bahrain are the other teams in Group A.
The Indian team has been able to hold on its own in the recent matches against China and Oman in the lead-up to the Asian Cup but those games have shown Constantine’s defensive approach and strategy of scoring on the counter.
But the India head coach said the team would not change a playing style which it has adopted for the last four years and which has brought it to the Asian Cup.
“We tried to attack in every game but it is not always possible if you are playing against China or Oman or Jordan. They are very good sides and sometimes you cannot impose your will,” he said.
“We are a hardworking team and a difficult team to beat. We are not going to play a different style we are used to and which has got us here due to performances in the last three to four years. We are not going to change how we play now.” Asked about his policy of rotating team captaincy, he said, “I have rotated captaincy for four years, it is not new. I think four or five or may be six or seven captains were there in four years, so no change in that.” He said he would have loved to play more international matches before the Asian Cup but on the positive side “there were very few injuries” to the players.
Asked if there were any injury to any player, he said, “(Goalkeeper) Amrinder Singh has a tweak but nothing serious. Other than that nothing is there. All players are fine.” Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who addressed the media along with the coach, said his side would look to produce a consistent performance in the tournament.
“We are concentrating on the challenge ahead and we have a team which has proved in the last four years that it can win. We are not an easy team to play against. We will try to be positive and stay consistent in the group stages.” Thailand head coach Milovan Rajevac said his side’s “minimum expectation is to go through to the Round of 16”.
“We do have some weak points and the match against Oman (in a friendly match three days back) made them obvious. At this point, we need to forget about the result of the warm-up game. It’s time to focus on the match against India,” said the Serbian who guided Ghana to 2010 World Cup quarterfinals.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.