Stephen Constantine: Target is to qualify for the next round

Picture Courtesy: AFC Media

India will continue their quest to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 when they take on host nation United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday. The Blue Tigers currently lead Group A after their 4-1 dismantling of Thailand on Sunday. The hosts, on the other hand, drew 1-1 with Bahrain for their first match and hence will go out all guns blazing in search of a victory.

At the pre-match press conference, head coach of the Indian national team Stephen Constantine shared his thoughts on what he expects from the encounter. He began by talking about the challenge posed by the hosts, but maintained that qualification to the knockouts is their sole aim. “The target is to qualify for the next round. Tomorrow will be a tough game against the host nation. But we came here to qualify from the group and we will do everything to try and do that,” he said.

Continuing on the same note of qualification, he said: “Nine points would definitely do it. Six will do it. Four might be enough. We're going for all three tomorrow. We're not here to draw, we are going for the win. When I came in 2015, I told you all that we'd qualify for Asian Cup. We've done that. We've taken the first step to qualify. Now we have two more tough games to go.”

Despite being labelled as firm favorites to top the group prior to the tournament, UAE did not start off in the ideal manner after a disappointing draw to Bahrain. However, Constantine refused to take Thursday’s encounter lightly, saying, “I think they did not play to the best of their abilities, they are a good side. UAE will see this as a must win game. It'll be a tough game. We will see if we can get something from it. We are prepared for 14 of them, including the three substitutes. We are as prepared as we can be. I don't like to discuss what the opponent did or didn't. We have a healthy respect for the team.”

Right-back Pritam Kotal was also present at the conference to answer the media’s questions. The ATK defender took the opportunity to talk about the Indian fans, who made their voices heard during the Thailand encounter. “Good number of Indians turned up for the Thailand game. Obviously as a player it is always favorable to have a good crowd cheering for you. We're looking forward to the game,” he remarked.

He also shed light on the mood in the dressing room, ahead of their second encounter. “The dressing room atmosphere is perfect. Feels good to win. But that's past. Now we have set our focus on qualifying from the group.”

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