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India favourites in virtual final of tri-nation tournament against St Kitts & Nevis

India will start favourites when they take on St Kitts and Nevis, with a draw or a win all that is needed for the hosts to clinch the honours.

football Updated: Aug 23, 2017 22:34 IST
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
India national football team,St Kitts and Nevis national football team,Tri-nation series
Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of winning the game against St Kitts and Nevis. (PTI)

India will start favourites when they take on St Kitts and Nevis in what has turned into a virtual final of the tri-nation football tournament. A draw or a win will help the hosts clinch honours.

Both coaches appeared confident on the eve of the match, though neither wanted to tag his team as favourites.

While India coach Stephen Constantine said that a depleted rival squad doesn’t necessarily make his task easier, the Caribbean team coach Jacques Passy admitted that his side was up against a better side but was prepared.

The visitors, who are without several of their top players, drew 1-1 against Mauritius on Tuesday and stand an outside chance to win the tournament.

“They (St Kitts) are quite dangerous in the counter-attacks as you could see with their goal (against Mauritius),” Constantine said. “We have a tendency to start slowly and that sometimes causes problem as it did against Mauritius.

“They got the first goal; even Puerto Rico got the first goal (in an international friendly held here last year). We need to come out a little bit quicker; that is one of the key areas. Defence is obviously one of the key areas.”

The tournament is being used as a platform by the Indian national team to gear up for their Asian Cup qualifying encounter against Macau on September 5.

Passy, however, exuded confidence. He claimed he has seen every single game of the Indian team since Constantine took charge in 2015.

“If you’re playing a tournament and your objective is not to win it, you’re in the wrong profession. For me, it is to win this trophy,” Passy said. “Of course, there are secondary objectives, and for me one of them is to give opportunities to the younger players.

“We know we are going to face a team which has won nine games in a row and are expecting a tough game tomorrow,” he added.

From being ranked 173rd in March 2015 to breaking into top-100, India have improved drastically over the past couple of years. They have notched up wins against superior oppositions. However, Constantine feels there’s still a lot that can be done to nurture the country’s youngsters.

“There is talent all over India. We are just not looking for them. We need to do a lot more than what we’re doing,” he added.

On AIFF’s plans to include a team comprising under-17 and under-19 players in the I-league, Constantine said: “I said this three years ago, rather even 15 years ago, that we should have an under-21 team in I-League. Five years after I left, they did it (Pailan Arrows was formed in 2010).”

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 22:34 IST