The Indian football team arrived here on Saturday morning for their 2018 World Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Turkmenistan, slated to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on March 29.
The 22-member squad looked visibly tired after their overnight flight from Tehran via Dubai and settled down in their rooms after a quick breakfast.
The squad was boosted by the presence of ace striker Sunil Chettri, who joined the camp in the morning. Chettri had missed the match against Iran which India lost 0-4, due to a groin injury. Midfielder Md. Rafique is also slated to join the squad.
“It was quite a tiring journey from Tehran. We look forward to fine tune some aspects in our training session here,” coach Stephen Constantine told the media.
“We need to assess some players over the status of their injuries which they suffered in the last match. The last time we played in Kerala for the SAFF Cup, the support from the Kerala Football Association was wonderful. We look forward to the same enthusiasm.”
For the record. Turkmenistan are currently ranked 113 in the FIFA rankings in comparison to India who lie much below at 160.
“Turkmenistan come into the game fresh as they did not have to play any match on March 24. They are a very good side with some quality players who add to their strength. They are presently on 10 points in Group D and there’s a reason why they are ranked 11,” Constantine stated.
The coach also made a special mention of Kerala and its fans. “The support for the SAFF Cup was amazing. We just could not have done without their support. Some 45,000 sang and chanted for us non-stop and without them we could not have won it in Trivandrum,” Constantine maintained, recollecting the triumph of the SAFF Cup.
“During my stint in India as coach I have worked with some exceptional talents from Kerala. The talent and passion for the sport in the state has no bounds.”
Also during the Mann Ki Baat Radio Programme by honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 26th, he made a special mention of the upcoming FIFA Under-17 World Cup and urged the youth of the country to show the same enthusiasm for every sport like they do for cricket.
A good performance in the tournament will go on a long way to boost the morale of the players and prepare the team for the future. India needs to ensure that we are ready to face the big nations and provide good competition to them.