INDIA’s HIGHEST GOAL SCORER Sunil Chhetri was present at the pre-match press conference in Goa ahead of the qualifier of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
One of India’s prolific strikers Balwant Singh, missed being available for selection. On his his striking partner’s absence the skipper said,
“I hope it doesn't affect us. Balwant is an asset, he's had a great season... but I hope whoever gets an opportunity in his place lives up to the expectations."
There were rumours that a few senior players in the national camp were upset about Stephen Constantine as the coach and had written to the AIFF for sacking of the head coach. On this Chhetri clearly denied these rumours and clarified,
"I have no idea... a lot of people called me up to ask about it but I didn't take those calls... because it is not true."
Heaped praises for the Englishman on the fantastic work he has put in his second term as Indian national team coach, Sunil shared,
"Only Constantine knows how we feel about him, because he faces us daily... in the camp he asked and we told him exactly what was there... he knows how much we want to play for him"
Looking back at the last time India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup back in 2011, Sunil quipped,
"This team is completely different from the 2011 AFC Cup side. Only me, Subrata Paul & young Gurpreet Singh Sandhu are still here... but the happiness is the same after qualifying through hard work"
The captain mentioned that even though the team has qualified they will give their all to win against Myanmar.
“It's one thing to qualify for Asian Cup and another thing to keep doing well... we want to do well there, so we have to be fully prepared. And that process starts from tomorrow."
About fighting for his place in the team, Chhetri has said the competition is healthy. He went on to say,
"I never worry about my place in the team. My job is to give my all... if after all that I'm not selected, not my problem. If youngsters do well it's a good problem for our coach to have.But personally, I'm not going anywhere"
On the fantastic run of India from 173 rank to the nineties and now hovering around the 100 rank, Sunil said it has been almost like a dream.
“Realistically, I didn't think we'd go on a 4 game winning streak. Constantine wanted us to take one game at a time...the mantra was clear, don't worry about qualification, just win the next game. Winning the first two games gave us a very good platform to be where we are today... we worked really hard... Myanmar away was a tough game, we were really relieved to get 3 points from there"
Captain has always been wary about the Myanmar team and today he repeated the same.
“Playing Myanmar away was difficult. They had the ball most of the time... but I'd take 3 points any day, man.”