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‘Current team is one of the best in Indian football history’

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bengaluru: Praising India's qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, coach Stephen Constantine said the current team is one of the best in country's football history.

"This is one of the best teams in the history of Indian football, if not the best," he told reporters after India beat Macau 4-1 in a qualifier match at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here yesterday night.

India had thrashed Macau 4-1 in a Group A encounter which helped India to qualify for the Asian Cup for the fourth time.

In 1964, India participated in the tournament for the first time and ended runners up. In 1984 and 2011, they crashed out in the group stage.

Replying to a query, Constantine said he is extremely proud of the boys who had taken his demands earnestly, during training and practice sessions, before they qualified for the Asian Cup.

"I thank my staff ... Everybody has been magnificent. It is a huge thing for Indian football. It is not only an honour for the team, but the whole country. Right from clubs, coaches everyone has played their part to see the success," he said.

"The team had some ups and downs, though," he added.

Asked whether he would be fielding the bench strength in the remaining group stage matches, Constantine said he cannot say anything for now, but wants India to finish first in the points-table. "If you want us sitting out for the next two games, I am not going to sit out, for sure," India Captain Sunil Chhetri intervened.

Replying to a query, Constantine said Balwant Singh was a good foil for Chhetri who scored the goal in second half with his help. "Balwant did what he was asked to do. After he was introduced, Sunil got the room to play with the ball and everyone knows, if he gets the room, he can be really dangerous," he said.

2015 Asian Cup miss still rankles Chhetri
The failure to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup still rankles Sunil Chhetri and the Indian football team skipper is determined to shine in the 2019 premier continental tournament after booking a ticket to UAE here.

"I was there when we missed out in 2015 and that still hurts me," Chhetri said after the match. "This is the tournament we play for. We get to rub our shoulders against best in Asia which we don't get many times," he added.

Rowllin Borges (28th minute) put India ahead in the first half before Sunil Chhetri (60th) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (90+2) found the net after the break.

Macau defender Man Fai Ho scored an own goal in the 70th minute. Nicholas Mario de Almeida Torrão scored the lone goal for the visitors in the 37th minute. Chhetri lauded his teammates for their performance. "Amazing feeling. We have worked hard for this. Quite a group. Good last 3 points, great feeling. Happy with the way we bounced back," the striker said.

"Just four teams qualified. It shows our hard work. We will keep working hard. We can't lose our cool. The goal we conceded was against the run of play. Balwant had great pace and set it up for me to finish," he added.

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