2018 World Cup qualification was never possible for India: Stephen Constantine
Indian football team head coach Stephen Constantine emphasised on Sunday that beating higher-ranked Puerto Rico on was not an indication that the team has turned things around.
Speaking to reporters in the post match press conference, Constantine expressed that his work with the national team was a project in the development stage and that the team was still short on quality to challenge the best.
“Just because we won once, it doesn’t mean we are the best team in Asia and that we are going to the World Cup. We need a lot of work and to play away games,” Constantine said when asked about the performance of his team.
The Indian team is in an exceptionally good run of form at the moment with the 4-1 victory over Puerto Rico at Mumbai’s Andheri Sports Complex being the ninth win in the last 11 matches.
But Constantine is keeping his feet on the ground despite the excited mood in the dressing room.
“I think it’s not important that we won nine from 11 games. I think it’s important that even the games we lost, we learnt from those games and developed.”
The British-Cypriot coach also said that his vision since taking over the national team was still a long way from being fulfilled.
The 53-year-old, who had coached the Indian team from 2002 to 2005, returned for a second stint at the start of 2015, taking over from Wim Koevermans just before the start of the 2018 World Cup qualification round.
India failed to qualify for the World Cup and Constantine confirmed on Saturday that he never thought the team had a chance.
“When I came, I said in the meeting, “Don’t expect for us to be successful overnight. Don’t expect us to qualify for the World Cup. It’s not going to happen”.
“We lost seven games in those qualifiers. Four of those games we lost 2-1 against much better teams than us. We came from 175 (to 152).
“We can’t change things overnight. It’s a process. And we are still in the process.”
The next major hurdle in the Indian team’s development process will be to attempt qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. India will play in the third round of the qualification stage which begins in March 2017.
When asked if his team was ready, Constantine said: “The qualifiers are in March. That’s eight months away. That’s a lifetime!”.