India National football team returns to action against Mauritius as the Hero Tri-Nation Series kicks off in Mumbai tonight.
Sandesh Jhingan has been given the captain’s armband, in absence of Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The burly defender will look to maintain his good run at the helm of defense. Jhingan scored in the last fixture when India took on Nepal at the Mumbai Football Arena in a FIFA Friendly in June.
The Hero Tri-Nation Cup, after much speculation, was finalised to take place at Mumbai, a location where Stephen Constantine’s men have a good record. They haven’t lost a fixture here since the stadium started hosting international matches. The 4-0 rout of Puerto Rico also took place at the same venue.
Three vital members of the squad will not be part of the week-long tournament as Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu miss out due to their club – Bengaluru FC’s AFC Cup commitments. Amrinder Singh, recently retained by Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC will take charge between the goals. He is familiar with the venue as he has plied his ISL trade here for the Mumbai side earlier.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine said at the pre-match conference that the match will serve as a good platform for the side to get reacquainted before the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Macau in September. “My initial plan was to play one game against Macau, Hong Kong or Chinese Taipie. Then the opportunity came to play three games (in a four-nation tournament). That would have given me the chance to try new players. We wanted one team from Africa, one from the Caribbean and one team from Asia,” explained Constantine.
“Of course, theA�AIFFA�could not muster the fourth team and thus it became a tri-nation tournament. Constantine is also worried about the timing of the match -against Macau on September 5. “The players are in pre-season mode. We have two opponents (in the tri-nation tournament) who will give us different problems. And it will give us an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with each other. Don’t forget that we have not played since June.”
Though Mauritius are ranked 63 places below India, Constantine was not willing to read too much into their ranking. “We cannot underestimate the equality of our two opponents. Mauritius recently lost to Ghana and teams don’t lose by close margins to African giants unless they are doing something right. The other team (St. Kitts and Nevis) is from the Caribbean. I know they are not Jamaica but they play a similar style.A�If we need the ability to play at a good level, then we need to play good countries from different continents instead of just playing Asian teams.”
Mauritius coachA�Francisco FilhoA�was just happy to be playing in a tournament. “We owe a gratitude to the AIFF for inviting us. Playing in the tri-nation tournament with India will give my team exposure and we will experience new culture,” said Filho, who added that his team is a mix of youth and experience.
The India vs Mauritius match kicks off at Mumbai Football Arena on 19th August at 8pm IST. Catch the action live on hotstar.com