Constantine rues the mistakes India made at the start
India were handed their first defeat of the inaugural Hero Intercontinental Cup as they succumbed 2-1 to New Zealand at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. A late winner from Moses Dyer coupled with Andre de Jong’s equaliser sealed the victory for the All Whites, after Sunil Chhetri had initially given the Blue Tigers the lead. Despite the loss, India have qualified for the finals to be contested on Sunday, owing to their superior goal difference.
India’s head coach Stephen Constantine took questions from the media at the post-match press conference, where he defended his decision of making a total of seven changes to the starting XI. He said, “It was always going to happen. The games we have between now and the Asian Cup are to prepare for the Asian Cup. So we can’t rely on just 11 players from now until the end of January. We were always going to change the team. We did not get the result that we wanted, but it was important that the players got the opportunity to play. There were some good points. We lost today, but it is not the end of the world.”
The Englishman congratulated New Zealand for their impressive display, but was not happy with the two goals his men conceded. “When you win a couple of games, you tend to get carried away. New Zealand are a good side and they were disciplined. We made some mistakes at the start. We scored first and then we let in two silly goals.”
Despite the defeat, the 55-year-old was glad that his side had made it to the final of the tournament. “Today some players did not take the opportunity to be in the spotlight and others did okay. We knew that we are more or less in the final unless we lost by four or five goals. It’s not the end of the world, but we are in the final.”
From New Zealand’s end, coach Fritz Schmid addressed the media during the post-match press conference and evidently looked delighted with the result and the way his side performed on the night. “It is, of course, a fantastic feeling. I must say that the boys can be very proud of their performance. We knew the hosts would be the toughest opponent and we might have to struggle. But looking at the performance, I must say that the team did an excellent job.”
The 58-year old also pointed out the differences between today’s game and the one against Chinese Taipei. “Well, it was quite different. Chinese Taipei were a very defensive opponent. But I must say that this team has shown improvement from game to game. It is interesting for you to know that we have been qualified as the youngest New Zealand team in the history of New Zealand football. They have proven that we deserve to be here,” he concluded.