Former India skipper Jo Paul Ancheri has urged the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to appoint a highly pedigreed international coach for the men’s National Team following the departure of Stephen Constantine.
The Englishman vacated his post after India’s group-stage exit in the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup held in the UAE after a successful second stint which included a 13-match unbeaten run.
India started their campaign with a historic 4-1 win over Thailand before going down narrowly to hosts UAE by 2-0. The Blue Tigers required a draw against Bahrain in their final group clash to progress to the knockouts but their hearts were broken with an agonising 1-0 loss.
“Stephen has taken India to new heights - there are no doubts about it. Taking India through a long unbeaten streak of 13 matches was an unprecedented achievement,” Ancheri stated.
“Even in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, it was sheer poor luck with finishing which resulted in the team losing against the UAE, a game which they should have easily won.
“But I believe that time has now come for the AIFF to go one or two levels higher and recruit a more experienced foreign coach.”
Ancheri has advised the Indian FA to go for a name who can transform India into a top-10 team at the continental level.
“A foreign coach with more exposure in more developed European or Asian football cultures is now the need of the hour as India looks to take a step up towards becoming a top 10 Asian team,” the former India player explained.
With a possibility that the 2022 FIFA World Cup set to be a 48-team affair, India’s chances of qualifying for the tournament for the first in their history could receive a big boost but Ancheri feels there is a long way still to go before the team can dream of qualification.
India are currently ranked 101 in the world and 18th at the continental level and the Kerala-born former footballer believes India need to first break into the top 10 teams in Asia.
“Currently, the Indian national team is on the right track. But a lot of hard work will need to go in if we can go far in the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. Our target should be to reach the final round of Asian qualifiers,” Ancheri opined.
“Going by recent trends, I think we can aspire for World Cup qualification. However, I am not totally confident we can achieve it.
“Tactically and skill-wise, we have proven during the Asian Cup that we can match up with the good Asian sides. However, physical fitness and stamina is a concern.”
For the short-term future, Ancheri has advised India to aim for a spot in the final qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“If we work really hard and if our players are able to get some good match exposure in friendlies against some good Asian nations, making into the final round of qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup is a possibility,” he said in conclusion.