By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team
BENGALURU: It’s raining. Dark clouds float overhead threatening to deliver every moment. And they do. The showers since the arrival of the National Team squad in this lush green Garden City have been light, torrential, light and then torrential again. For the last four days, the roads haven’t dried up ever. It’s wet.
The Indian Team drenched in the rain have had two practice sessions so far – a recovery session on Monday evening and a session on Tuesday morning. The points table doesn’t project any smiles for the boys having lost all of the five so far. It’s wet even there.
Guam arrived in Bengaluru a couple of days earlier than Team India assembled. They have in fact have had more practice sessions than the Men in Blue. And even as you hear the pitter patter of rain drops on the window panes, National Coach Stephen Constantine mentions “Guam are the favourites.”
“Guam have seven points. They are above us in the FIFA Rankings. So they are the favourites,” he says in one breath. “But at the end of the day it’s what you do on the pitch which determines the result.”
You take him back to India’s previous match against Guam. Constantine says: “This was our first away trip in the Group. I was fully aware of the difficulties that faced us in Guam. They may be a Guam Team but most of their Players ply their trade in USA,” he states.
“In any case, we didn’t play particularly well in which has been the case in all of our away games so far. Four games later, we are a better side that we were then. I have respect for Guam and their Coach as they do. But we need the points to give ourselves the chance of making the Playoffs.”
You turn to the Players and they admit unanimously that “we were not up to the mark in Guam.”
The other day Arnab Mondal mentioned: “People may speak about the weather, the ground conditions when we played Guam in Guam. But simply put, they were better than us on that day.”
India have so far played two matches at the Kanteerava. The first against Oman was lost 1-2, a match where the Men in Blue should have snatched away at least a draw. The second, despite losing 0-3 to ‘Giants of Asia,’ the boys were spontaneously lauded for their aggressive attitude by none other than Carlos Queiroz.
“When I came here in 2015, I was under no illusion as to the difficulties and challenges that lay ahead. We had not qualified for the World Cup Qualifiers in 8 years,” Constantine quips.
“In my first Press Conference in Delhi I had told everybody present that this is going to be a long and difficult road and it will take time to regain our pride in Asian Football. In this time, we have blooded 16 debutants and have changed the attitude and atmosphere of the Players. And if you look at three of our five Qualifiers, we have lost by the odd goal.”
“I believe that this group of Players that we have and the others that will follow will make us into a competitive Team in the months and years to come.”
The best part of India’s Team Hotel stays that the Stadium is just across the road. And there have been occasions when a couple of the Players have preferred to walk rather than take the car to fulfill obligations.
Constantine, nevertheless, sounds impatient. “I hate the in between. I really enjoy playing. I wish we can play every week. Unfortunately this is the drawback when you are Coaching a National Team. I just can’t wait for the kick-off,” he pronounces.
It’s still raining outside. All is wet.
The kick-off on Thursday (November 12) is at IST 7pm and will be telecast live on Sony Kix.