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Myanmar will be a difficult team to beat at home: Constantine

Press Trust of India  |  Mumbai 

Ahead of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers final round match against Myanmar, Indian football coach Stephen Constantine termed their opposition as "favourites at home" but expressed hope of getting a positive result in the away match on March 28.

"I think we have a good opportunity. We need to win our home games. Myanmar will be a very difficult game. They are favourites at home, they went to the Suzuki Cup final, struggled against Myanmar in Myanmar. I would like to change that and we will go and give whatever we have, as we always do and hopefully we can get a result in Myanmar," Constantine told reporters here.

Myanmar had emerged winners in the last meeting between the two sides -- in the 2014 edition of AFC Challenge Cup.

Constantine was speaking after the camp which was going on here to prepare for the March 22 international friendly against Cambodia in Phnom Penh followed by the March 28 AFC Asian Cup qualifier final round match against Myanmar in Yangon.

"So far, so good. We had a few players who have come in injured, we have tried to help. I have to thank I-League for giving me that extra week to prepare we needed. Unfortunately we had the AFC Cup, which took away 9-10 players from having them for the full week. We lost a couple of days with those boys, but in OK condition," he said about the preparations.

Asked if training in Mumbai helped the players, he said, "Here in Andheri it is perfect. We have a fantastic field that we train on. More importantly, it's the same kind of weather we will get in Cambodia and Myanmar."

He said two years ago when the team played in the World Cup Qualifiers they learned how to compete but this time they need to learn how to qualify.

"The first round of qualifiers we learned how to compete because we were not competing against anybody two years ago. We could not even beat Nepal. So in these games, we learned how to compete. This year we have to learn how to qualify. We have to play smart and to play smart we need support of everybody, time, camps, games. We have games confirmed till October, which is a first," he said.

"We now have a bigger pool of players to select from. Now we have more competition for places, we have 2-3 people for each position and it's the guys who can do the work that we selected. There will be 1-2 changes. I don't want guys to think aaram se (relax), it's finished, comfortable; this will happen not happen with me," he added.

Constantine also said that one coach should lead all the national sides and gave the example of Myanmar. However, he did not make it clear whether there should be only one coach for Under-17, Under-20 or Under-23 national teams.

"My personal opinion is that the national coach should lead all national teams and I mean lead in terms of philosophy, selection of coaches, methodology, everything, because they (players) are going to come to him. What happens if you get sacked, upto 17 they are learning different systems, the philosophy may change, but there needs to be that continuity. And a classic example is Myanmar and they qualified for U-20 World Cup on merit, there average age is 24 in senior national team and they had the coach for eight years," he added.

The national coach voiced concerns on the fitness levels of the players, saying they need to do more work at the club levels.

"It does not match up, but we don't have access to players. Obviously when they go back to clubs, it is different level, intensity is different, we are working on improving that. We have an app, whereby what every player is doing in every club, they fill the information and I get the information. So, when the player comes in, we know what he needs to do. So we can recover them quicker than before. But, they need to be doing more work at the clubs," he said.

"The work ethic, discipline we have in the national team is amazing. We have couple of coaches come in from outside and they are amazed at the attitude of Indian player. With that kind of attitude, we take right steps forward in all areas of Indian football, we are on a good path," he added.

Constantine also said that it's important to have an international friendly before a qualifier as it allows the boys to come together.

"You hear club coaches complain that they don't have much time to prepare. For national team it is even less. We need to play games, there needs to be that level of consistency in the game. It's important to have an international friendly before a qualifier. It helps gel the boys, you can try new players, you can try new systems or whatever it is that you're working on. But it's important that we get those games," he added.

The coach also expressed the need to have consistent games in the FIFA calendar.

"We should always be playing in the FIFA calendar dates. We have a game next week. After that we have confirmed games with Lebanon, Palestine and up to October we have quite a good schedule. So let's look forward, let's look at what's coming," he signed off.

First Published: Sat, March 18 2017. 15:48 IST