Constantine confident of positive result against Thailand

India begin their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign when they take on Thailand at the Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The Blue Tigers return to Asia’s biggest footballing extravaganza after an eight-year hiatus, last playing in the 2011 campaign. Despite India’s superior ranking, they cannot afford to take things lightly against a promising Thailand squad.

At the pre-match press conference, head coach of the Indian national team Stephen Constantine and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were present to answer questions from the media. Constantine began by addressing the quality of his side’s opponents for Sunday’s encounter. “We are expecting quite a tough game against Thailand as they are a really good side. Thailand are a very technical team and they have got a number of good players. We have seen them play and we believe we are ready for them. There are no easy games for us and we are taking one game at a time,” he said.

Constantine also shrugged off any suggestions that his side were succumbing to the pressure ahead of the tournament. “The pressure is there every time we play for India. The future is bright and we are going to try everything to qualify from the group and I can assure you that we will leave everything on the pitch. We are the second youngest team in the Asian Cup and this is the youngest team in the history of Indian football. The future is bright and we will try to make it out of the group stages,” he said, brimming with confidence.

When asked about how the team has evolved under his stewardship, the Englishman pointed to the mentality of his players, when he said,” We don’t go into a game thinking that we are going to lose. We go into a game thinking that we are going to win. The work rate has also increased, in the four years the boys have put phenomenal effort into training. The unity of the team and the work rate is why we are here.”

Gurpreet also shared his insights into the evolution the team has undergone over the past four years, saying, “The kind of belief that we have built over the last four years is something that we as a team are proud of. We have given our everything on the pitch and will continue to do so. We have worked really hard to be here and we will try to put up the best show possible. The boys have been doing the work and we will make sure that the work does not go in vain.”

The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper remains one of the few players to have represented the team during the 2011 campaign. Gurpreet shed light on his experience then and how he plans on helping the team this time around. “It is a huge moment, but as a player and as a professional, I would not let the occasion get the better of me. In 2011, to see the legends of Indian football play and just to be in that dressing room was something special. I’m at a position here where I can contribute to Indian football and I want to make sure that whatever is needed from me is done on and off the pitch.”

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