Indian footballers brace up for Puerto Rico challenge

India coach Stephen Constantine with Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu during the pre-match press conferenceAIFF Media

Puerto Rico, who’ve moved from 172 to 114 in just a year’s time in the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings table, have shown tremendous potential as a team. We didn’t play him in two games because he had a slight injury.

It is after four years that India is facing a non-Asian team, but this fact has been overridden by the return of worldwide football to the city of Mumbai after a 61 years. They have a number of players playing in Europe and they will be a very good side, make no mistake of that.

India play an worldwide friendly on Saturday against Puerto Rico in what could possibly be the last time they would be in action this year.

Stephen Constantine, National coach, chose the 24-year-old to inspire a young side (average age of the team is 23).

With a National Team match lined up in Mumbai after such an elongated period of time, the LG Cup winning coach is delighted to be playing in a metropolitan city. They have done a fantastic job and all credit goes to them. “We won’t be changing how we play”, he voiced with conviction.

Puerto Rico squad missed their connecting flight and are to reach only this evening, it was announced, but coach Constantine brushed aside any extra advantage for India due to this late arrival of the opponents.

“I think every time you wear the Indian jersey you should be motivated to do well”, he began, in his address to the press ahead of the encounter. But I would say that he stayed out there and continued. A country like Norway is not easy at all.

But, Stephen Constantine remained adamant that despite Puerto Rico’s strong attacking threat, the Indian team will not sit back and being the home side will try and play their own game against the visitors.

Sandesh Jhingan and Arnab Mondal will man the centre of a four man defence, with Narayan Das and Rino Anto occupying the full-back positions. However, in a more fluid system, Lyndoh could find himself partnering Halder in a deeper role, giving Sumit Passi a place just behind striker Jeje in the side. In fact, Puerto Rico hosts a football club, Puerto Rico FC, which plays its professional games in the second division of the USA league – the North American Soccer League.

“They like to keep the ball and pass it around”. Once they are around the box they are very risky. They are technically very good. “Against USA they split open the rival defence with three touches”, said the national coach. Much like the visitors in Mumbai, Guam is a United States territory that recruited most of its players from American clubs. The venue that’s located at the heart of the city is expected to be an ideal location for the Mumbai’s football loving population who reside in pockets that have a good connectivity with the venue.

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