India football coach Stephen Constantine’s bizarre Germany comparison | football | Hindustan Times
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India football coach Stephen Constantine’s bizarre Germany comparison

India football team coach Stephen Constantine guided his squad to the AFC Asian Cup 2019, the premier continental tournament, but defended the national team’s unbeaten run by comparing it to that of world champions Germany

football Updated: May 20, 2018 11:27 IST
Sarthak Bal
Sarthak Bal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Stephen Constantine helped India secure direct qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Stephen Constantine helped India secure direct qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2019.(PTI)

India’s national football coach Stephen Constantine defended his constantly rotating players despite criticism, but rather oddly compared the unbeaten run of the side to that of world champions Germany.

Constantine helped India secure direct qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2019, for the first time since 1984, and said on Saturday that his focus was to build a team for the future.

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However, he seemed upset by the criticism of former India skipper, Bhaichung Bhutia, who has said Constantine should foster continuity and not chop and change. Constantine has tried out many players in the national side, but also faced questions whether that would help build a strong squad.

“In these last three-and-a-half years we went 13 games unbeaten. We have about 15 players that are smashing the door down to get into the senior national team,” Constantine told reporters as India prepare for the four-nation Intercontinental Cup starting in Mumbai on June 1.

However, in a bid to make his point, Constantine ended up comparing his team ranked 97th in the Fifa list with no less a team than Germany.

“Who in his right mind can complain about the team or the guy who is leading it? So, if you have any complaint against me, it is because you don’t like me or our style of play. But I don’t care. Apart from Germany, there was no other team in that sort of form as us.

“The national team right now is as good as it has ever been. In 1956, we were 93 in the rankings, but there were only 110 countries or so. There are 211 countries now. These are the best moments in football for the Indian national team.”

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Bhutia criticised Constantine’s policy of constantly rotating players in the national team, which he felt hampered building a core group and keeping it intact.

Constantine, however, defended his methods.

“When I came, the team was at an average age of 31-32. In my time, we have given 37 international debuts and we have qualified for the Asian Cup directly. Half of the squad here is under 23 and so you have a team here for at least the next six years,” said the 55-year-old.

“I build teams. We have to give youth the chance and opportunities. But they must be handed at the right time, in the right game and against the right opponent. We lost to Kyrgyzstan and people started raising questions on why certain players didn’t play. But it is very important to me to leave something behind. And the best way to do that is with the young players, but at the right time.”

That loss to Kyrgystan came in the final group game of the Asian Cup qualifiers after India had made it.

India, ranked 97, face Kenya (111), New Zealand (133) and Chinese Taipei (121) in the Intercontinental Cup, part of the build-up for the Asian Cup (UAE -- Jan 5-Feb 1, 2019).

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Constantine explained his selections for the Mumbai event.

“I need a certain type of player to do a certain job with the national team. We are not playing a team from India. We are playing on another level. If a player scores a couple of goals in the I-League or Indian Super League, that’s great, but how does it translate to what we need? He may be very good in the league but how will he be against Iran or Afghanistan?” he asked.

“This is where I have to make the judgment call. We need a player who never stops, who never gives in, a player who can run and fight, and still have the quality after that. I try to do it through the under-23s and if he is not standing out, how is he going to play for the senior national team? If I do not pick a player, it is not because I have anything against them but the fact that they do not do what we need of them,” he ended.