Vastavam web: Boosted by the availability of star striker Sunil Chhetri after his timely recovery from a hamstring injury, hosts India go into the football friendly against lower-ranked Nepal here tomorrow with their confidence high and as the favourites. The international friendly is to be played at the Football Arena in Andheri Sports Complex where India’s dramatic ascension to no. 100 in the FIFA rankings commenced last September with a 4-0 rout of Puerto Rico.The Indian squad has been sweating it out at the same venue for three weeks now with only the players from Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan missing for the major part due to their club commitments.
The players had dispersed to fulfil their respective club commitments after notching up a memorable 1-0 win over Myanmar in the AFC Asian Cup group opener in March end and the main aim will be to reunite in a proper way for the June 13 game against Kyrgyzstan at Bengaluru.Although key striker Chhetri is fit enough to play, he was unlikely to be included in the friendly as a precaution for the more important game against Kyrgyzstan, said Constantine today.India were hovering in the 170s when they last played against Nepal and Constantine described the ascent as “not an easy journey.”
“It was a result of a lot of hard work and commitment from everyone concerned – players, support staff and the rest.FIFA ranking is just one aspect, a number. It depends on a number of variations,” he said.The team will obviously miss the services of winger Udanta Singh, who has picked up a serious hamstring injury and is out of this game as well as the more important one against the Kyrgyz Republic.Coming to the India-Nepal football rivalry, the hosts have not lost to their north-eastern neighbours for 18 years, their last defeat – a 0-4 rout – happening in the 1999 SAF Games.
After that reversal, the two South Asian neighbours have met on nine occasions and India has come out trumps on all but two of these encounters which were goalless draws.Their last contest was in the South Asian Football Federation championship in December 2015 and India had emerged 4-1 victors.Visiting team’s coach, Koji Gyotoku of Japan said the game against India was very important ahead of next week’s group F AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen.”This match is very important to prepare for our Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen next week. India have improved as a team in the last 2-3 years. We are looking forward to get a good result for building confidence,” said Koji.