A day prior to the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup football tournament against Kenya, India coach Stephen Constantine stressed all that happened in the round robin stage is now “done and dusted” and the title clash is going to be a “new challenge”.
“What we did in the round robin stage is done and dusted but we cannot take anything for granted in the final. Kenya have shown what they are capable of, especially from set-piece positions. We totally respect them but at the same time our primary target is to win the tournament,” Constantine said at the pre-match press conference.
The last time the two teams met in the group league stage, India had registered a 3-0 win after a goalless first-half.
A brace from captain Sunil Chhetri in his 100th international match and a strike from fellow striker Jeje Lalpekhlua had settled the issue for India on the day.
Won’t the victory provide India with a psychological advantage?
“The round robin stage is history now. We will start afresh tomorrow and try to win it,” Constantine maintained.
“We had qualified after the first two games and it was important for us to give the other players an opportunity to play.”
Meanwhile, there is a forecast of torrential rain on Sunday.
“The players who can swim will get a chance tomorrow,” Constantine joked.
“Jokes apart, the weather is something which we can’t control. I hope the ground condition improves. Whatever it is, we have to play according to the situation.”
Constantine picked Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika and Thapa for special mention.
“This guy (pointing to Anirudh Thapa) has been outstanding so far. He can play in more than one position. If you talk of Pronay Halder, he can play as a defensive midfielder as well as a defender. The same applies for Dhanapal Ganesh as well who’s unfortunately ill. Also, Jerry can play as the left-back as well as upwards,” he said.
“The two central defenders in Sandesh (Jhingan) and Anas (Edathodika) have been outstanding for us and it is something we are happy about. You have to put the right people in the right place and this is what we are trying to do,” he added.
“What we focus on is the work rate and the boy sitting next to me (Anirudh Thapa) has been terrific in his work rate. That’s the kind of player we need in this Indian team.”
Kenya meanwhile, will be eager to avenge their loss to the hosts during the group stage.
“We will be out looking for a win against India. Although there is no revenge against any player, we would like to defeat India in the final,” Kenya coach Sebastian Migne said.
“I wanted to play the hosts in the final and I am happy that my players will be facing the team they lost to. But this time around it will be a different result,” he predicted.
“We will go all out to win the Hero Intercontinental Cup.”
Referring back to the 0-3 defeat against India, Migne quipped: “We were very much in the game till it was 0-0. We had two good chances to put the match to bed but we failed to take our chances and that is what happens when you don’t take your chances.”
“The penalty changed the game. We learnt our lessons and we have bolstered our ranks. But India has a really strong team that will test the best of our abilities,” he added.
Jockins Atudo, one of the most senior players in the Kenyan squad, also reiterated that the result will be “different” this time around.
“This time around it will be a different result — you just wait and see. We will play to beat India in India,” Atudo said.