India football coach Stephen Constantine says it has been a difficult qualification for Asian Cup

New Delhi: India may have already made the finals of next year's Asian Cup but Indian football team head coach Stephen Constantine, who presided over an unbeaten run of 13 internationals, asked his players to remain focussed, having endured a "difficult" qualification.

India play Kyrgyz Republic in an inconsequential away game on 27 March. "We have already qualified and will have to be very careful to maintain our focus and try to get the three points," Constantine said.

"They are a very good side and we can expect a similar game as we had against them in Bengaluru. They have good quality all over the field but so do we. They also have the home advantage this time around."

 India football coach Stephen Constantine says it has been a difficult qualification for Asian Cup

File image of Stephen Constantine. Image courtesy: Twitter @IndianFootball

Compared to India's last qualification in the 2011 edition, the Briton said, "I think it has been huge and when you look at the manner we qualified this time round, it has been very difficult.

"We played the play-offs for the World Cup qualifiers, the group stages for the WC Qualifiers, the play-offs for the Asian Cup qualifiers and the group stages again. The last time we qualified was in an 8-nation competition in India and so it doesn't compare."

The coach said he is going to miss a few important players, including skipper Sunil Chhetri, next week.

"We always play to win. We have, however, a number of players who are out for the match. Sunil Chhetri is serving a double yellow booking, Eugeneson Lyngdoh is injured and so are Jackichand Singh and Nikil Poojary."

And missing the duo of Chhetri and Eugeneson will be a factor.

"Yes, of course. Both are experienced players. The list is long and you need to add Jackichand, Nikhil and Sumeet Passito it too. But this is football and the players replacing them should look at this as an opportunity to make an impression. We have a long way to go before the Asian Cup Finals and a lot can happen between now and the finals. In between we have the Intercontinental Cup, the SAFF Championship, the Asian Games and the FIFA International dates as well."

"There's also a lot of football to be played at the domestic level," said Constantine

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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2018 17:00:08 IST