Arnab to lead India, teams cautious of their chances

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Bengaluru, June 10 (IANS) Both Oman and India, who clash here on Thursday in the second round of the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier, expressed cautious optimism about the outcome of the game, with home team coach Stephen Constantine announcing that defender Arnab Mondal will lead the side and striker Sunil Chhetri will be his deputy.

India and Oman are in Group D along with Iran, Guam and Turkmenistan for the preliminary league with top two finishers progressing to the next phase of the competition as 46 Asian countries vie for the four spots in the 2018 World Cup finals to be held in Russia.

While Oman coach Paul Le Guen expressed confidence going into Thursday’s game, Constantine, who has worries enough, especially with the training camp conditions here, announced that the team will be without full-back Sandesh Jhingan who has suffered a shoulder injury.

“We are confident of doing well against Oman on Thursday, but we will be without Sandesh Jhingan who has injured his shoulders. It is a big loss for us,” said Constantine during the pre-match Media interaction here Wednesday.

Oman coach Paul Le Guen declared that his team, ranked 101 to India’s 141, is confident of winning Thursday’s tie, but they would be treating their opponents with respect while being aware of the vicissitudes of sport.

“I know that they (India) have a new coach and it is a team that is improving. We have to be respectful of that. They are also very enthusiastic and are physically well prepared for the match.

“I really don’t care about the FIFA rankings. I have told my players to forget the ranking and focus on the game. There are points at stake,” said Le Guen, but declined to elaborate on the team’s tactics and strategy.

Oman captain Ali Al Habsi virtually echoed Le Guen’s views while pointing out that his team has sufficient experience to pull through against India.

“We have been together (as a team) for the past four years. So, we have enough experience. Every player is important and every game is important. We believe in ourselves and we all are well prepared for the qualifiers.

“We know that India is a good side and we go into the game with full respect for our opponents,” said Al Habsi.

Constantine, while also declining to talk about tactics and strategies, made no bones of the fact that the Indian team has had very little time to prepare and was again critical of the training facilities at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, venue for Thursday’s game.

“We have had what, just four full days of training. At the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, the conditions are not ideal as we had athletes and others running around on the track (around the football pitch), but it is what it is and we have to get on with it.

“As for tomorrow’s match, we all know that Oman is a very good side and much higher ranked than us, but we have gone up a few spots in FIFA rankings (from 147 to 141) and that is a good sign. We will go out there and put up a fight from the very first second,” said Constantine.

Both Mondal and Chhetri admitted that the Indian team has a tough match against Oman.

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