National football coach Stephen Constantine feels India have a legitimate chance to qualify from Group A but said there won’t be any easy games in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
India have been drawn with Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar and Macau in Group A of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, beginning March.
“On paper it looks favourable. It does give us the hope that we have a legitimate chance to qualify from the group,” Constantine told AIFF.
“I need to take you back to the draw of the World Cup Qualifiers where we were drawn with Guam and Turkmenistan and there was a generic feeling all around – ‘no problem, we will have it easy.’,” the 54-year-old added referring to India’s disappointing last-place finish at the World Cup football qualifiers last year.
Seeking to make it to the AFC Asian Cup Finals after their last appearance in 2011 in Qatar, India will begin their campaign against Myanmar in an away match on March 28.
Constantine said: “Myanmar has made it to the final of the Suzuki Cup and on the back of qualifying on merit to the FIFA U-20 World Cup under their German Coach, they are a very difficult team to play at home.
“Let us take one match at a time. There are no easy games for us.”
Asked when will the team assemble, he said: “The plan is to assemble on the weekend of March 11/12 (2017) as the players would start to assemble after their respective Hero I-League games.
“But there would be boys who would be involved in the AFC Cup and we will only have them available some days later.”
Asked if India will be playing a Friendly match prior to their first game, Constantine said: “Given that we are playing an away game first, we want to play an International Friendly on our way to Myanmar.
“It would benefit us to have valuable match practice as the intensity of International Football is entirely of a different level than domestic football. Let me reiterate, Myanmar won’t ever be an easy opposition away or even at home.
So will we see new faces at the Camp?
“I have always said the Players who do the work will get the opportunity. The door is open to each and every Indian Player who qualifies to play for India,” Constantine said.
“Myself and Venky (Shanmugam Venkatesh) are following the Hero I-league very closely and watching players. We will make our selections based on what we know and what we see.”
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