Suzhou : China India might be touted as underdogs in the much-anticipated football friendly against China here on Saturday, but national coach Stephen Constantine is confident of giving a good fight to their higher-ranked opponents. India and China will go head to head in a football friendly for the first time in 21 years on Saturday with the home team a firm favourite despite poor recent form. The Indian team is playing an international match for the first time in China though their senior sides have faced each other 17 times in the past.
China have played in India seven times, all of them in the invitational tournament Nehru Cup. “The conditions are ideal and it’s going to be a crucial game for us before the Asian Cup. It’s really going to be a great football contest for all of us and the entire team is looking forward to it,” Constantine said. Constantine also thanked the Chinese Football Federation for the warmth and support extended to the Indian contingent. “I would like to thank Chinese Federation for their hospitality and warm reception that we have got since we have landed here. We have trained on it and the pitch is in super condition.
We are all now looking forward to the match,” he added. Despite the fact that the Red Dragons have failed to churn out positive results of late, onstantine warned his boys “not to get fooled” by their rivals’ recent outcomes. “Rome was not built in a day. Surely, we won’t get fooled by the recent results of the Chinese Team. They are a very good side as well as they have a great coach. I understand that everybody wants immediate result but it takes time to build the team. I think Mr Marcello Lippi is trying to do that,” the India coach said. Constantine said it would be a great learning experience for the youngsters of the team. “The U-23 team has performed quite well recently and it can be the perfect opportunity for them. Playing against China in this fantastic stadium would be a lesson for everyone,” he signed off. Jhingan to lead Sandesh Jhingan will lead the Indian football team against China on Saturday as coach Stephen Constantine termed the burly defender as one of the leaders of the team, going forward.
Charismatic striker Sunil Chhetri is regular skipper of the side but it is not unusual to rotate the captaincy in international friendlies. It will be first meeting between the two teams since the Nehru Cup clash in Kochi in 1997. India are yet to win a single match against China in the 17 encounters played between the two countries so far. “I think the captain has to reflect the attitude of the coach. Sandesh first played for me four years ago. He is a fighter and a leader. He gives everything on the pitch which most of the players do,” Constantine said at the pre-match press conference. “I think he is going to be one of the leaders for India going forward. Keeping the magnitude of the game in mind, I believe he deserves to lead the team.”
The newly-appointed skipper thanked the coach for believing in him and handing the captain’s armband to him. “As an Indian boy it was always my dream to represent the country. It’s a great feeling that I can’t actually express in words,” he said. “In Chhetri-bhai, Gurpeet, Jeje- we have a group of leaders which makes my job easy. We all work together to achieve the goal. The plan for tomorrow is that to stick to the plan and give our best on the pitch. If we are able to do that the result will follow. We’re really looking forward to play in this beautiful stadium.”