'India prepared for Oman test'

Football : Constantine expects his side to face tough time against visitors

'India prepared for Oman test'

 Indian coach Stephen Constantine made it clear that his side was aware of the threat Oman can pose when they go head-to-head with the middle eastern side in their opening game of the FIFA World Cup qualifier tie at the Sree Kanteerava stadium here on June 11.

“Oman are a very good side. You do not go to the Asian Cup finals by not being a good side. It will be very difficult for us. I can assure you that there are no easy games for us. Nepal was not easy, Guam and Turkmenistan will not be easy,” said the Brit on the sidelines of the preparatory camp here on Sunday.

“Though the teams are judged based on their FIFA rankings, it also depends on how active or inactive you have been in the past. If you play just two games in a year like we did, then there is a serious reason to worry.”

Ranked 101 in the world, the Omani squad will have a good blend of experience and youth. While, on one hand they have the experienced Amad Al-Hosni, who has scored 36 goals in his 112 appearances for his national side, on the other it is the 26-year-old Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, who has 15 goals from his 46 games.

And Constantine is well aware of this threat as he was seen strengthening his back-line during the training, which is expected to be led by the versatile Sandesh Jhingan. “We played Nepal and now we take on Oman. I can assure you that it will totally be a different game — different opponent, different level, everything. We will be, and I am sure, without the ball for long periods of the game. And that’s another reason why you have to put the boys under pressure, because they will be under pressure from the first minute from a very special Oman side. You have to be able to deal with pressure,” he added.

Though the squad saw some surprise exclusions when the 26-member side was announced, Constantine seemed very happy with the guys he had at his disposal as he believed that the players in his side could do the job from the side. “I think we have possibly the best players in the country here at the moment. Now the situation has changed, where I believe every player in India understands now that they will be selected on merit and merit alone. And if they do the job for their club, they have opportunity.”

India’s preparation ahead of the crucial tie was hit by a minor road block when the team was held back in New Delhi since their visa formalities for their tie against Guam got extended by two days. But Constantine seemed to have put back the disappointment.

“Yes it was disappointing that we lost a few days of practice. But this is something we couldn’t have avoided. We next play Guam, and for that we need visa from the US embassy. It wouldn’t have made sense if we came here and then went back for the visa interview. This is one of those things that is completely out of my hand,” explained the 52-year-old.

“Obviously I would have liked two or three weeks. We have a lot of new players and obviously it’s difficult for them to understand everything that we need. There’s no point crying about it. We will work as hard as we can and try and do as much as we can in the short space of time that we have,” he added.

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