March 29:An injury-hit Indian football team will face a tough test when they take on Turkmenistan in the 2018 World Cup preliminary joint qualification Round 2 match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday.
India come into the match after a 0-4 loss to Iran. Turkmenistan are currently ranked 113 in the rankings in comparison to India’s 160. They have lost six of their seven group matches to be at the bottom of the group with only three points. Turkmenistan are third with 10.
The equilibrium of the young and the seasoned will be put under the scanner as India are without the services of Eugeneson Lyngdoh and striker Robin Singh. Skipper Sunil Chhetri is only half fit despite training with the squad over the last couple of days.
“We will take a last minute call on Sunil Chhetri. Although he has improved it will be a last minute decision to play him or not,” India head coach Stephen Constantine said before the match.
“He (Chhetri) is a great captain and a great leader. Obviously we will miss his services if he does not play tomorrow,” he said.
Constantine has handed debuts to the young talents in recent months — the latest being the 19-year old Udanta Singh against Iran.
Speaking about the match on Tuesday, the coach said, “Turkmenistan are a very good side and stealing a point against Iran away is a statement of their abilities. However we will give our cent percent on the pitch as always and even though Turkmenistan are difficult opponents we will play to win.”
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, who led the squad against Iran, highlighted the positive side of 23 players having made their international debut in the last one year.
“It’s good for the future of Indian football. Our team is young and therefore we have a lot to learn and develop together as a single unit. It is good for the future of Indian football that young players are being involved in the national setup,” Lalpekhlua said.
Reflecting on India’s World Cup Qualifying campaign so far Constantine added, “As a team we have learnt a lot in the qualifiers. We played well against Oman, but the result did not sway in our favour. We cannot do something about where we are but can only keep our focus to the match at hand. And playing in India for India is motivation enough for the players to perform.”
Turkmenistan’s head coach Amangylyc Kocumow said, “India are a very good and fast team with very good players. We are expecting a tough clash against them.”