Intercontinental Cup: India head coach Stephen Constantine says FIFA rankings are misleading

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The British head coach repeated his intention of treating this tournament as a preparation for the upcoming Asian Cup in January 2019...

The 2018 Intercontinental Cup gets underway on June 1 when India take on Chinese Taipei in the tournament opener.

Stephen Constantine, head coach of Indian football team, made it clear that the tournament is being treated as a practice competition before the AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign.

"As always, it is a great pleasure and honour when the Indian national team is playing. We use these games as preparation for the Asian Cup which started as soon as we qualified. Each side in this tournament will give us different problems, which will help in our development process.," said Constantine. 

Other participating teams like Kenya and New Zealand have chosen to name depleted squads for the quadrangular tournament. But the coach did not seem perturbed by that. 

"That's something we don't control. Kenya, whoever they bring, will be difficult. I have been in Africa for five to six years and I know the quality of football they play. As far as New Zealand is concerned, it does not matter whether the players are playing in League One or Championship. You have to look at the quality and how good they are. Therefore, I don't necessarily think that this is a problem. We are using these games to develop and improve for the Asian Cup. It is not about FIFA rankings and we will play to the best of our ability against whoever we come up against.

"In the last three-four years, we have gone to a new level. We have to continue this. It is just not good enough for India to qualify for Asia Cup once in eight years. We need to do it every four years. Then only we can think about qualifying for the world cup. ISL has raised the bar like never before. It needs to get better with every passing year. We need fewer foreigners which will help the development of the domestic players. There is no turning back from here," stated Constantine. 

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Constantine revealed that two new support staff – Joel Carter and Claus Peeterson - have joined the team. 

"We have got Joel Carter, a rehab specialist from Australia Sports Sciences. He works with individual players who are not quite ready or have small injuries and you don't want to put them with other guys. He is working on certain areas where they can strengthen and improve which is fantastic for the players. 

"Claus Peeterson is a coach in one way and has experience in coaching second and third tier teams. His main forte is his match analysis. We have broken down our opponents. We have had one on one with individual players. We use video clips from training and matches so that we can get better. It is a fantastic addition to the group. I have to thank the AIFF for allowing me to do this," said the tactician. 

Constantine went on to term the FIFA rankings as 'misleading' but also explained why he attaches importance to it. 

"The FIFA rankings are misleading to some extent, as there are teams who are above us and are not as good as us whereas there are some teams who are below us but are better than us. It depends on games and where you play them. I wish I had the ability to fix those but I don't. The importance given to the FIFA rankings is purely for the draw. If you are not in a certain place then you have to go and play qualifiers. If you are in a certain position then you directly qualify.

"This is the reason which I give importance to FIFA rankings because you need to be at a certain ranking to be considered for that," opined the head coach. 

The gaffer made it clear that the doors of the national team are open and he is always on the lookout for players who can help and improve the team. 

"We have quite a programme coming up which includes the Asian Games and SAFF Cup. Then we have the October-November windows and there will be a camp before we end up going to UAE. The I-League and ISL games are also there. A lot of football to be played in these months.

"Of course, I am always looking at players who can come and help and improve us. We have a relatively young squad with 11 players from the U-23 age group. But we also need experienced players to lead and guide these youngsters mentally, which is not easy. By the time we get to November, I hope we are injury-free and we make India proud," said Constantine. 

Sunil Chhetri accompanied his coach to the press conference and the skipper denied that India will be affected by fatigue after a long season. 

"I feel fine. You never get bogged down mentally while playing matches. It always feels good to play matches. Four of us joined two days late and we had a different training regime. Some of us joined immediately after playing a tournament and some players did not play for a month. Slowly and steadily everyone combined. I feel fine and fit and all of us are feeling good," said Chhetri. 

The Bengaluru FC captain stressed that every player is motivated to give their best and cement their position in the team.

"We will go out and put our best foot forward. As the gaffer said there a few more places to be grabbed and we are going to give our best. We are going to make some technical errors, but as far as our desire is concerned it must be high. Just as players we need to raise our bars and we have to show that our desire is top notch," said Chhetri. 

"I think we are much more aware and the interest is much more in the country. I don't want to compare the players that I have played with and are playing with. The boys have more knowledge now and know what to do and what not to do. Everyone knows how to take care of them in the right way. That is one of the biggest changes in the last 10 years or so," explained Chhetri.

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