SAFF Cup: India wary of Sri Lanka’s counter attack

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 24 (IANS) India head coach Stephen Constantine is wary of the fact that Sri Lanka can hit them on the counter attack when the two outfits meet in a South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup tie here on Friday.

Constantine spoke of the opponent’s strength and said there would not be any easy games for India in the tournament at the Trivandrum International Stadium.

“They play a defensive formation and will hit us on the counter attacks. They have some decent players and work extremely hard,” the British tactician said.

“There are no easy games for us — in fact, against anybody. I expect Sri Lanka to give everything they have. We have to be patient and see what happens.”

Constantine also said he is rebuilding the squad with young players and that it will take some time before they can give results.

“When I took over I had to make a choice — either to continue with the tried and tested whose average age was around 30, or to rebuild the squad. I opted for the second despite being aware that it won’t deliver you immediate results,” he said.

There are a list of injury concerns for Constantine and he added playing them would mean that they would aggravate it more.

“We have lost Sandesh (Jhingan who’s also an Under-23 Player), (Cavin) Lobo and Seityasen Singh. Anas (Edathodika) pulled a hamstring and we had to release him too. Besides, there are a number of guys whom we need to be careful with,” Constantine stated.

“I could have easily played Jhingan and Lobo. They could have played in this tournament and their presence would have certainly strengthened my squad. But if I played them here they would have missed the next six months.”

At the practice session on Thursday it was Jeje Lalpekhlua first to hit the ground. The others followed. Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Rowlin Borges, Pronay Halder, Holicharan Narzary, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Kaushik Sarkar, Thongkhosiem Haokip, Sumit Passi are all below the age of 23, the younger squad that the coach was stressing on.

Referring to a question whether goalkeeper Subrata (Paul) can push Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) and grab the position under the citadel, Constantine hit back hard saying: “If Subrata didn’t have a chance he won’t have been here. I have never had any attachment for players of what they have done in the past.”

“It’s all about now. Everyone needs to be the type of player which suits the national team.”

But it will be a tough ask breaking down the Lankan defence who stood strong in their first game against Nepal.

Mohamed Rifnas struck a late winner for the Lankans against Nepal on Wednesday and they would be full of confidence when they take on the Indians.

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