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India seek winning start in Intercontinental Cup against Chinese Taipei

India begin their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup in UAE with the Intercontinental Cup, and the first match of the inaugural tournament is against Chinese Taipei.

football Updated: May 31, 2018 17:34 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, Mumbai
Intercontinental Cup,Stephen constantine,AFC Asian cup
India coach Stephen Constantine speaks with captain Sunil Chhetri by his side during a pre-tournament press conference for the Hero Intercontinental Cup.(AP)

A fairly impressive AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign being the confidence-booster, the Indian football team begins its preparations for the continental showpiece by taking on Chinese Taipei in the lung-opener of the Intercontinental Cup here tomorrow.

The four-nation tournament, with teams from three separate continents -- Chinese Taipei, Kenya and New Zealand -- apart from the hosts, was conceptualised to test the Indian team ahead of the Asian Cup to be held in the four cities of the UAE from January 5 and February 1.

The Stephen Constantine-coached side has come into this tournament after a 13-match unbeaten streak from June 2016 to March this year. The team booked a berth for the Asian Cup in October 2017 with two matches left to be played.

A 1-2 loss to Kyrgyzstan in the last match of the Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Bishkek in March snapped the 13-match streak but that match has been rendered inconsequential by then.

READ | We must go into Asian Cup as underdogs, says Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

India will enter tomorrow’s match with a psychological advantage as they are the highest ranked side at 97th, besides also having an impressive head-to-head record against the East Asians. India have beaten Chinese Taipei thrice while drawing once in the past decade.

Tomorrow’s match at Mumbai Football Arena at Andheri will also see star striker Sunil Chhetri inch towards the milestone of 100 matches for the country. He will be playing his 99th international match in India jersey.

A winning start in the tournament would be important in terms of reaching the final to be held on June 10. But Constantine has said that no team in this tournament will be an easy opponent.

“I am not one for records as teams and players change all the time and they (Chinese Taipei) will be coming to try and beat us. Under Gray White, they have improved and will be very organised. We will show them the respect they deserve, but of course winning the game is our aim,” he said.

READ | Sunil Chhetri and I complement each other well: Jeje Lalpekhlua

Chhetri said the “desire to win among the players is 100 percent”.

“I am fully fit and we are ready for the tournament. It was mixed bag when we first arrived for the camp. There were players some of whom had not played for almost a month while there were some who joined the camp straight from an AFC Cup match. I love playing for India and will give my best what I can,” he said.

Chhetri, who has been in roaring form for some time now, will have the likes Balwant Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua for company upfront.

The likes of Halicharan Narzari, Udanta Singh, Bikesh Jairu and Mohammed Rafique will be vying for spots in the midfield.

And, the experienced Sandesh Jhinghan, Pritam Kotal, Souvik Chakrabarti and Anas Edathodika will be among the key men in the defence while Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is expected to man the Indian goal.

First Published: May 31, 2018 17:34 IST