The Indian football team is looking to play two to three friendlies in the lead-up to the AFC Asian Cup in January, head coach Stephen Constantine said on Sunday.
“We will be looking to play [in December], about a week before our first game [in the AFC Asian Cup on January 6]. I can’t tell you the opponents but I am working on it,” he told reporters.
The Indian team is close to sealing an agreement with Saudi Arabia for a friendly, Constantine revealed. “[In] November we are close with an away game in Saudi [Arabia], but again this is not a 100%, but it is close. October we have one or two possibilities.”
The Indian team will play the South Asian Football Federation Cup in Bangladesh in September, where they have been clubbed with Sri Lanka and Maldives in Group B. Constantine, who pleaded with the authorities to let the team go to the Asian Games, thanked the Indian Olympic Association for agreeing to send the Under-23 squad to Jakarta and Palembang in August.
The Englishman also agreed that the team was under the cosh for large parts of the second half against Kenya in the final of the Intercontinental Cup on Sunday. “[In the] second half, Kenya put a lot of pressure on us. I really appreciate the work that the boys did and in the end we deserved this [title]. This is our success, just not me and the boys, but everybody.”
Asked which part of the 2-0 victory was more special, the Englishman said, “The work rate was phenomenal specially in the second half when we were tired and the Kenyans showed how tough they are because they played two days ago and were still able to put pressure on us.”
Constantine said the Intercontinental Cup gave the Indian team an opportunity to prepare themselves for the Asian Cup, which will be played in the UAE. “[If] we make it to the last 16 of the Asia Cup, these are the kind of games that we expect [to play]. The character and resilience of the team is what impressed me the most [in the final].”
The Englishman made light of the situation around the third match of the Intercontinental Cup, where Sunil Chhetri played despite India resting seven players. “I can’t protect him from club football, but I didn’t want to play him in the third game. But he starts moaning, so ok [I played him].”