11/20/2018 7:06:32 PM (GMT+3)

Why India avoid West Asian sides in friendlies?

Why India avoid West Asian sides in friendlies?

NEW DELHI: India football team coach Stephen Constantine is on cloud nine and believed that the team has become “very difficult one to beat” after they held China to a goalless draw in Suzhou on Saturday evening.

It will soon be known if they’re really unbeatable when the Indian side compete at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE next January.

“We have shown in the last four years that we are a very difficult team to beat. We may not have the quality which some Asian teams possess, but I stand for my team physically and competitively. They boys were outstanding today,” Constantine said on the federation website.

Playing against the Chinese side, who are nowhere near their best, and getting a drawn result doesn’t mean that there’s something great going to happen with Constantine’s boys at the continental competition.

“We came here to give a good performance. The main thing for us was to get used to the standard of football which we would face in Asian Cup,” Constantine added.

Any layman football follower can evaluate their performances and opponents in the last four years.

There’s still a huge gap between India and some of the top Asian sides. But for some reason, the India’s foreign coaches have always avoided the strongly-built West Asian teams. Constantine is also not an exception and he too followed the footsteps of another Englishman Bob Houghton, who guided the side at the 2011 edition in Doha, Qatar.

India were beaten by the sheer speed of Australia, Bahrain, and South Korea in their group games and bowed out of the tournament with as many defeats seven years ago.

It still isn’t clear why the Indian coaches and Federation always pick the South East Asian sides to play their friendlies on the eve of an important tournament.

India didn’t win and yet right from the country’s sports minister to everyone gloated on the team’s ‘impressive performance’.

Well, we played against the 76th ranked side and India stands at 97, but we continue to hype our ‘superior’ FIFA ranking (97).

Those who possess a little knowledge on the sport would agree Indian team’s Asian Cup campaign would be fraught with challenges.

Will we be able to stop strong contenders Iran? Or, for that matter, Bahrain and a difficult Thai side.

Constantine’s encouraging words are welcome, but even he also knows the stark reality. On the basis one just friendly match, he seemed to have been carried away.

January isn’t far away, and by that time we would know how well he has planned Indian football’s future. 
(Follow: @mdamins)