New Delhi: Coach Stephen Constantine believes the Indian National team is heading into the right direction after the Blue Brigade moved 11 places recently in the FIFA rankings to attain its best ever position in the last six years.
The big win over higher ranked Puerto Rico last month in an international friendly has instilled new belief in the squad and Coach Constantine feels India can take that momentum forward into crucial matches that lie ahead.
"We will be playing the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in March 2017, the draw for which will take place in January 2017. We will go in with a chance to have a go at qualifying for the Asian Cup in 2019. The boys have settled down into international football and know what is expected from them to take the next step," Constantine told News 18.
Constantine also feels that giving young talents a chance right now will help in creating a team for the future.
"We have introduced 30 new boys to international football and though not all may be playing consistently, unless you give them a chance it is impossible to judge how they would react to high intensity international football. The average age of the team has gone down from over 30 to around 24 and if you look, this is the nucleus of the Indian national team for the next decade or so", said the Indian team head coach.
The Englishman, in his second stint as the coach of the Indian national football team, has credited the Indian Super League for helping in unearthing young talents, who can represent India at the international stage in future.
A complete young breed of Indian footballers has come up and if tapped at the right time it could be immensely beneficial to the Indian footballing scenario. I am keeping an eye on players’ performances in the ISL. My assistant coaches are also attending matches in various venues to scout more talent for the national team. We have been tracking some players and the ISL provides us the platform to judge how much they are ready.
The concept of ISL is such that a club ought to have a marquee overseas player in the squad and because of that, the likes of Del Piero, Roberto Carlos, Diego Forlan among multiple others, have caught the imagination of the football hungry fans in a cricket crazy nation.
Constantine believes that Indian players can take away a lot by rubbing shoulders with these experienced footballers.
"So many foreign recruits who have played at much higher levels are coming to India to play in the ISL. They are here to share their experience and do it in a positive manner. It’s now up to the Indian players to grasp as much as possible from them. It is a unique opportunity and one needs to make the most of it. You won’t get such a chance every day”, Constantine said.
The ISL also allows the Indian players to train under quality foreign coaches. A player can only improve when he trains under a quality coach. I expect my players to approach it positively, be inquisitive, learn as much as possible to add expertise and more value to Indian football as a whole", Constantine told News 18.