Football

Chhetri to sit out Nepal friendly

Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri  

Constantine wants his key player for tougher contests

Sunil Chhetri is likely to sit out the international friendly against Nepal despite recovering from a torn hamstring. Stephen Constantine is clear about protecting his key player for tougher contests ahead, primarily the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

“He is certainly not playing the Nepal game,” said the Indian chief coach, answering queries about team composition. “There are still players staking a claim for places in the side against Krgyz Republic.”

Constantine is clear about the value Chhetri brings to the side with his maturity, experience and leadership. “I would like to see Sunil lead the team in the Asian Cup competition (India is still to qualify). He is up to the mark, as far as fitness is concerned, but is not 22 now.

“At his age (32 years), there is a tendency to pick up injuries and needs time to recover. It is my job to protect him.” The India coach stressed that trying out new players (debutants) was aimed at ensuring more options for each position.

Chhetri’s teammates on the Federation Cup-winning Bengaluru FC squad, Udanta Singh and C.K. Vineeth, are also unlikely to play.

India has a healthy respect for Nepal’s grit. “They are a hard-working side and will fight for the ball till they cannot fight any more,” said Constantine. The two nations played each other 18 times, India won 12 against four victories by the visitors and two drawn games.

Gurpreet Singh has been named the captain in Chhetri’s absence. India (ranked 100 in FIFA nations list) will face 169-ranked Nepal at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday.

Replying to a query about the home team rated the favourite, instead of underdogs as it used to happen earlier, Constantine replied: “FIFA ranking is just one aspect, a number. It depends on a number of variations and results achieved by other nations comes into consideration.”

The national coach brought up AIFF president Praful Patel’s recent statement that getting into FIFA’s top-50 should be India’s next target. “I applaud his optimism,” said Constantine, adding: “To get into the first 50 (FIFA football-playing countries), we need to work hard.”

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 12:06:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/chhetri-to-sit-out-nepal-friendly/article18724271.ece

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