Suzhou (China): Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine was all praise for his boys after they held continental powerhouse China to a goalless draw here on Saturday.
“We have shown in the last four years that we are a very difficult team to beat. We may not have the quality which some of the other teams in Asia have. But I stand for my team physically and competitively against any team in Asia. The boys were outstanding today,” Constantine said at the post-match press conference.
“It was a very exciting match. Both teams tried to score. Of course, China had more possession and opportunities and we had expected this.”
This was India’s first official international friendly on Chinese soil. For the most part, the match was a battle between wave upon wave of Chinese attacks and robust — sometimes desperate — defending by the Indians.
This was the 18th match between the two nations. China have won 12 of those matches while the rest have been draws.
Constantine felt that matches such as these will help the Indians prepare to face the best teams from the continent at the Asian Cup next year.
“We came here to give a good performance and the main thing for us was to get used to the standard of football which we would face in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. Congratulations to all the players. Five of them who ended the game are U-23 players and two who started were U-23 players as well. That’s my policy — to develop young players and give them more opportunities,” Constantine said.
“I feel Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu] is an outstanding talent. He was three years in Norway and definitely played his role today in keeping a clean sheet for us. Sandesh Jhingan is a fighter. He puts his body on the line and gave everything on the pitch as all the other boys do too. Playing for India is the best possible situation and we appreciate that,” he added.
Referring to India’s game plan, the coach informed that the plan was to keep it “tight”.
“Our shape was very compact. The distance between the defenders and the midfielders was tight. We didn’t allow much space to our rivals,” he said.