India to face Nepal in International friendly

Sunil Chhetri. DH file

Sunil Chhetri. DH file

"I see no reason why this team can not go forward and qualify for the Asian Cup", says goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. India (ranked 100 in FIFA nations list) will face 169-ranked Nepal at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday. Whether or not that's an indicator of the progress the country's made in the sport, the feat is worth celebrating. India are superior in all areas of the game vis-à-vis their neighbours, who had to rebuild not only their team after a match-fixing scandal saw the AFC impose life bans on three top players, but also their stadium, after an quake ravaged it in 2015.

Idnia host sub-continent neighbours Nepal in an global friendly at Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri today with both teams vying for crucial game time ahead of their 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifier in a week's time. Nepal's Japanese coach Gyotoku Koji has included rookies Bimal Basnet and Hemanta Thapa Magar as their replacement.

Chhetri, who has been struggling with his hamstring towards the end of the I-League season will not take part in the worldwide friendly against Nepal on Tuesday, India head coach Stephen Constantine confirmed. For the Nepal national team captain, training for an worldwide friendly in a proper football stadium tops the list. Every team has a different challenge. Nepal are a very hardworking team. If they manage that, they'll not only be playing more matches, but more importantly, against quality teams. "Nepal is a very hard working team and we expect the usual from them - a tough fight till they can not fight anymore".

The Englishman is resting Chhetri keeping in mind the important 2019 Asian Cup qualifying match against Kyrgyz Republic in Bangalore on June 13. Robin Singh, who had one of his better seasons in domestic football with East Bengal, could get a look-in, especially if Chhetri is given some rest ahead of next week's match against Kyrgyzstan. The injured skipper however still attracted words of praise from his coach.

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"Sunil Chhetri is a very good player and has been for a very long time". Last week, the 54-year-old had said, "they run a lot and have been a thorn in our side for many years". I hope that's not now. It's just to protect him (Chhetri).

Meanwhile, Constantine informed Sunil Chhetri will not be against Nepal while CK Vineeth was released from the Camp on the day due to a sore ankle.

"At 32, we have to start thinking what's next". Someone will have to replace him (Sunil Chhtri) in the future, but who's it? I said it's doable provided we do certain things right.

Nepal will also be missing their captain Anil Gurung, albeit for reasons completely different from those responsible for Indian skipper's absence. The man from Japan spoke of tomorrow's game against India as a chance to improve his team. Another Nepalese player to watch out for will be Rohit Chand who will pull the strings in the middle of the park for Gyotoku's side. "The game against India will be very hard for us", added Gyotoku.

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They typically play a 4-3-3 formation. Sandesh Jhingan will most likely be partnered by Anas Edathodika in the center half positions, while Narayan Das and Pritam Kotal are expected to flank them.

Constantine isn't taking anything lightly though. AFC qualifier is far more important from a friendly or SAF Cup. Few days back the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings came out-India are placed at 100 while we are at 169. During the course, he's handed out debuts to over 30 players, but has now found a core set of players to make up the team.

"India has improved a lot and we are ardent watchers of Indian football as well". We want to learn something from them. In Gurung's absence, defender Biraj Maharjan is nearly certain to inherit the armband.

The Gorkhalis, who aren't short on talent and aspiration, would be hoping the game on Tuesday proves to be their Puerto Rico moment.

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