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India sniff AFC Asian Cup berth

Stephen Constantine's India are on the brink of history. Gaining three more points will be as good as ensuring they are on a plane to the UAE in 2019 to participate in the AFC Asian Cup.

Published: 11th October 2017 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th October 2017 12:00 AM   |  A+A-

India footballer Sunil Chhetri (File photo | AFP)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Stephen Constantine's India are on the brink of history. Gaining three more points will be as good as ensuring they are on a plane to the UAE in 2019 to participate in the AFC Asian Cup. It will be India's third appearance in the continental competition, after a second one in 2011. It doesn't get any bigger than that for these crop of Indian footballers.

Wednesday's opposition at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium is Macau, a side India have already beaten 2-0 in the qualifiers last month. According to their own coach's admission, they are "a group of amateurs".

However, the Indian camp is not willing to take things There are 90 minutes of football to play and a win to secure before the celebrations can begin in the dressing room.

"We know we are not there until we are mathematically there," said Constantine on the eve of the game. "Everybody is buzzing because we won our first three games. In my 14 years as a footballer, I have been in situations where we thought everything was done but then nothing happens. Wednesday is just one game against Macau and we just want to win it and see what happens after that," captain Sunil Chhetri reiterated.  
Chhetri has a point, as it took India until the second half to pierce Macau's backline in the away match and they were wasteful in front of the goal. "It was a struggle there. We had a lot of possession, but couldn't do much with it. We have done our work to correct the mistakes from that game, not just in the attack but as a whole. Hopefully, we will be able to show that on the field," said the Bengaluru FC forward who will lead the side out onto his stomping grounds.

If three points are indeed secured against Macau, India would require tasting defeats in their remaining two games against Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic and a perfect storm of results to go against them in order to not qualify for the Asian Cup. This is indeed a quick change in fortunes for the national team which had a disastrous 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign losing all but one of their eight games. 

"The World Cup qualifying campaign was something we had to go through. Those eight games was an opportunity for me to build a new team. I prefer to build teams. We had an ageing team then, but now the average age of the squad is 24. It has been a learning process and I think we now have a team for the next 5-6 years at least," said the English coach who is in his second stint with India.



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