Mumbai: A buoyed India will like to win their 10th international encounter on trot when they take on 125th ranked St Kitts and Nevis in their second round robin encounter of the Hero Tri-Nation Football tournament at Mumbai on Thursday.
The tournament is being seen as a preparatory one before India take on Macau in their Asian Cup qualifying encounter on 5 September. India in last few months have won eight official international game and an unofficial friendly against Bhutan.
Needing just a draw on Thursday to win the tournament, India have rested star striker Sunil Chhetri and number one goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu while Sandesh Jhingan will continue to lead the side.
India won the first match against 160th ranked Mauritius 2-1 after trailing by a goal. Seasoned duo of Robin Singh and Balwant Singh scored for the hosts.
Going with his youth policy, chief coach Stephen Constantine is expected to hand over senior team debut to a few more talented U-23 players after the trio of goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, Nikhil Pujary and Manvir Singh were blooded in the opening game.
Addressing reporters, Constantine said his side need to start a little bit stronger than the last game.
"We have tendency to start slow and that sometimes causes problem as it did with Mauritius. They got the first goal, even Puerto Rico (in an international friendly last year) got the first goal. We need to come out little bit quicker, that is one of the key areas. Defence is obviously is one of the key areas," he said.
Constantine said the good thing about this tournament was having two teams from different continents, who have different philosophy, style.
"St Kitts and Nevis did a good job in containing Mauritius. They (St Kitts and Nevis) are quite dangerous especially on the counter attack and you could see in the goal (against Mauritius)," he said.
Asked whether some key players missing from St Kitts and Nevis line-up will make his job easier, the India coach replied in negative.
"It makes my job harder because the players who are here are doing to possibly everything they can to show that they should be here. There will be ISL clubs looking at these games. I would have preferred a fully-loaded (side) here," Constantine quipped.
He also said that there should be an India Under-21 team in the I-League.
"I said it 15 years ago, we should have Indian U-21 team in the I-League. Five years after I left (2010) they did it. We need an U-21 team, put into the I-League because there needs to be a legitimate pathway for players because young Indian players are not getting opportunities that they should be getting," he said.
Constantine would want his team to play attacking brand of football and would certainly plug the loopholes pertaining to the first 15 minutes when the defence looked jittery.
Forwards Robin and Balwant would like to continue from where they left. The prolific Jeje Lalpekhlua and young Manvir, are also expected to play a crucial role, if India has to register their 10th win on the trot.
The Indian defence comprising the likes of skipper Sandesh Jhinghan, would play a crucial role in stopping the visitors' attack.
The midfield is expected to be marshalled by Eugeneson Lyngdon, Holicharan Narzari, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Udanta Singh, whom Constantine will expect to be consistent.
On the other hand, St Kitts and Nevis, who were held by a lower-ranked Mauritius to a 1-1 draw, would like to put up an inspired show against the favourites.
Their coach Jacques Passy said that they are facing a "tough opponent" on Thursday.
"I have seen every game of India, since coach Constantine took over. India has improved dramatically, you know what to expect from India. It is clearly a team which defends brilliantly, a team that plays 4-4-2 combination always and a team that is very sharp with two strikers," he said.
"We know what we are going to face and which players we are going to face. We are going to face a team which has vision and that has won nine games in a row, we are expecting a tough game," Passy added.
The St Kitts and Nevis coach did not buy the argument that absence of Chettri and Gurpreet will make things easier for them.
"I don't buy the story that because India's top players are not playing, it is going to be easier. The story that I buy is that I am facing an opponent that know how to play the game," he signed off.
The match starts at 8 pm.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 15:42 PM