Jeje Lalpekhlua: All the players need to fight for their positions
India’s victory over Kenya on Monday night puts them in prime position to qualify for the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup on Sunday. The Blue Tigers overcame a robust Kenyan side 3-0 in front of a packed Mumbai Football Arena. Sunil Chhetri came up with a brace, while his strike partner Jeje Lalpekhlua opened his account for the tournament with a clinical finish. Substitute Balwant Singh also got involved in the action after he set up Chhetri for his second of the night.
Prior to the tournament, Jeje and Balwant spoke exclusively to indiansuperleague.com, where they opened up about the national team-set up. Jeje spoke on how the Hero Intercontinental Cup gave the players some time together on the pitch ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. “I think we don’t have any pressure at all. As you said, this tournament is more important for us because the Asian Cup is coming up. I think it is important for us to prepare for the Asian Cup.”
With India all but through to the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, the Chennaiyin FC striker remains confident that his side can win the trophy. “Yes, I think we have a good chance but it is not going to be easy. But, we need to play hard at our home and I hope we win the cup.”
The Mizo sniper also revealed the impact that head coach Stephen Constantine has had on the national team since his arrival. “We learned a lot of things from him. We got a lot of good results. 13 game unbeaten run. Right now, we are ranked 97th. I think we don’t need to say much, the ranking proves about what he has done in India.”
As the Indian team goes through a purple patch, the competition for a place in the starting line-up is as tight as ever and Jeje is aware that he needs to keep fighting for his place. “Yes of course, right now anybody can play in the positions they like. As strikers we have Balwant, Alan and Manveer. They all are very good, and they are still into training. So, all the players need to fight for their position.”
Mumbai City FC’s Balwant Singh, who has been a regular in the squad, spoke of his readiness to play any position that Constantine wants him to. “In my club I play in the left wing and also right wing at times. So, it depends on the coach where he wants to play me and I am ready for that.”
The 31-year-old forward also shed light on the chemistry he shares with his fellow strike-partners. “Yes, our combination is quite good. Jeje and Sunil Chhetri have been playing together since a long time. Jeje and I have also played together in clubs for around four or five seasons. Till now, it’s been good for us and we will continue the same.”