CHALLENGES: Sunil Chhetri (second from left, front) with his Indian teammates
Sunil Chhetri has described India’s football team’s chances of reaching the next round of World Cup qualifying as “very tough”.
After beating Nepal in their initial Russia 2018 match earlier this year, India were drawn against Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam in round two of the pre-qualifiers.
The former national captain, India’s record scorer, said: “(It’s) Tough, very tough. Teams like Iran, who are one of the best in Asia, and Oman, one of the most improved teams, are not going to be easy.
“For that matter even Turkmenistan or Guam (will be a test).
“We have a new coach (Stephen Constantine). Because of our past performances, we had to play a qualifier, which wasn’t great. Thankfully, we got past that. Now I hope we get enough time to accommodate ourselves to how he (Constantine) wants us to play.”
The 40 teams vying for a place in Russia have been divided into eight groups of five teams each. The group winners and four best runners-up will advance to the final World Cup qualification round and also earn a place at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.
Assessing the group India is in, Constantine added: “Iran are one of the giants of Asian football – consistent and full of quality all over the pitch. Guam will be organised and disciplined, and it won’t be an easy game home or away. On their day, Oman are a quality team and have beaten most teams. It’s a tough draw but it’s always better to be in the draw than out of it, and we will do all what is possible to get a result.”
India’s World Cup fixtures: June 11: Oman (home); June 16: Guam (away); September 8: Iran (h); October 8: Turkmenistan (a); October 13: Oman (a); November 12: Guam (h); March 24: Iran (a); March 29: Turkmenistan (h).