Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC left-backs Nishu Kumar and Jerry Lalrinzuala respectively have been ruled out of India’s squad for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup to be held in UAE.
“Nishu Kumar, Jerry Lalrinzuala are out of the squad. Jerry has a knee injury,” confirmed Stephen Constantine at a send-off press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The head coach of the Indian national team also confirmed that he had received an invitation from Iran’s head coach Carlos Queiroz for a preparatory friendly on the 27th but had to turn it down to the fact that India were slated to play Oman on the same day.
“We generally sent letters to associations expressing interest in internationals or in some cases, I know the coach personally. Carlos Queiroz called me personally and asked me if I would like to play on the 27th.”
Constantine also stated that he would have liked more matches for preparations but that he and the All India Football Federation had tried to arrange games.
“We approached 25-30 nations asking for games for the Asian Cup. If we had more matches, it would have been good but it’s not for the lack of trying. We’ve had some good warm-up games against big opponents such as China, Jordan and Oman.”
Sunil Chhetri denied that there was massive pressure on his shoulders alone and stated that a lot of players in the team who had served the national interests well in the last two to three years had to share the workload. “The pressure’s on Jeje [Lalpekhlua], Sandesh [Jhingan], [Anirudh] Thapa, Gurpreet [Sandhu]. All the work has been done by these guys. I just pick the cherries up front. These six-seven players have done the hard work for us in the last 2 years.”
The Bengaluru captain also said that the preparations for the 2019 edition were different from the 2011 one and that the coach Constantine was pleased with the team’s preparations.
“The preparation then was 6 months and we played as a team together. The coach is happy with our preparations this time. The guys are getting regular game-time in the Indian Super League. That team also had a lot of great players – Renedy Singh, Abhishek Yadav, Deepak Mondal and Abhishek Yadav.”
Constantine also stated that his favourite moment was when India qualified for the Asian Cup. “The moment was when we mathematically qualified for the Asian Cup, against Myanmar. Obviously, I would have liked to win the game but I was happy.”