Kochi: The Indian football team arrived in Kochi on Saturday morning for their 2018 World Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Turkmenistan, slated to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday.
The 22-member squad looked visibly tired after their overnight flight from Tehran via Dubai and settled down in their rooms after a quick breakfast.
The squad was boosted by the presence of ace striker Sunil Chhetri, who joined the camp in the morning. Chhetri had missed the match against Iran, which India lost 0-4, due to a groin injury. Midfielder Mohammed Rafique is also joining the squad.
Speaking after the Iran match, coach Stephen Constantine said, “They controlled the game. It was a very difficult game for us even before it kicked-off. In the first half, we conceded from a penalty and had two Players coming out for injury. It made it all the more difficult for us.”
“We tried to contain Iran and paid the price for some mistakes. We were short in some areas and paid the price for that. Iran are one of the Best Teams in Asia and playing at the Azadi Stadium has its own challenges,” Indian Sports News quoted Constantine.
"It was quite a tiring journey from Tehran. We look forward to fine tune some aspects in our training session here," Constantine told www.the-aiff.com.
"We need to assess some players over the status of their injuries which they suffered in the last match. The last time we played in Kerala for the SAFF Cup, the support from the Kerala Football Association was wonderful. We look forward for the same enthusiasm."
For the record, Turkmenistan are currently ranked 113 in the FIFA rankings in comparison to India, who are 160.
"Turkmenistan come into the game fresh as they did not have to play any match on March 24. They are a very good side with some quality players who add to their strength. They are presently on 10 points in Group D and there's a reason why they are ranked 113," Constantine stated.
The coach also made a special mention of Kerala and its fans.
"The support for the SAFF Cup was amazing. We just could not have done without their support. Some 45,000 sang and chanted for us non-stop and without them we could not have won it in Trivandrum," Constantine maintained, recollecting the triumph of the SAFF Cup.
"During my stint in India as a coach I have worked with some exceptional talents from Kerala. The talent and passion for the sport in the state has no bounds."
With inputs from agencies