IM Vijayan - There is Jobby Justin who could have been picked but this team is all set

Former India international forward IM Vijayan believes Stephen Constantine's team can progress from the group stage at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE.

India are in Group A alongside Thailand, Bahrain and hosts UAE and play their first match against the War Elephants on January 6 at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

"India have a chance (to progress from the group stage) at the Asian Cup. We drew with two good teams, China and Oman. What is special is that India qualified for the finals with two games to spare. That is a good result," Vijayan

UAE national football team trained at New York University ahead of Asian Cup

The legendary striker trusts Stephen Constantine to coach the team well to churn out good performances at the continental level and rubbished criticisms against the head coach over team selection.

"I absolutely believe in this team set up by Stephen Constantine. There are expectations from this team. There is a mix of good youngsters and forwards like Sunil Chhetri.

"There is no reason to criticise Constantine for his team selection. He has picked almost the same team that he had during qualifying, all coaches do the same. He has only made a few changes. This is the team that played well during qualifying rounds and went on an unbeaten run.

"It is not a problem that he has stuck to the known group of players for the Asian Cup. After the tournament, we can expect new players to be selected. This team is all set, they performed well against China and Oman by playing the same team. Constantine is also giving chances to good young players, nobody is noticing that. He is giving chances to 20 and 21-year-olds," the former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal striker said.

Vijayan also defended India's style of play and felt the preparation by the team ahead of the continental cup is adequate, although India has played very few games compared to other sides.

Stephen Constantine believes India can spring a surprise at the Asian Cup

"India's style of play is not too defensive. We are getting chances against big teams. It is not all defence. When possible, there are counter-attacks and when needed, the team is defending well. If we go fully defensive, we will concede goals but that is not the case.

"All these players are playing ISL games. Match practice and experience is not going to be an issue for any of these players. The only problem is India have not played enough against other international teams but that is not such a big deal," the three-time AIFF Player of the Year added.

Indian striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is in poor form in front of goal and has not scored a goal this season for Chennaiyin in ISL. However, Vijayan is confident that the likes of Jeje and Sunil Chhetri will step up for India, with club form having little to no effect in their displays in national colours.

"I have watched their qualifying matches, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri have performed well and scored. There are other good strikers in the team as well. Playing for the national team is a different thing altogether."

Touching upon the Keralites in the team, IM VIjayan said that Ashique and Anas Edathodika deserved their call-ups and hopes to see East Bengal's Jobby Justin added to the list soon.

"Anas Edathodika is an experienced defender. Ashique is a youngster, he is hardworking. He can run, he can cross and he has a future. These are the only two players from Kerala deserving of a spot.

"Then there is Jobby Justin who could have been picked but this team is all set. Jobby will be in the camp next time and he will get his chance for India."
“I can assure you that it won't be an easy job for other teams to face India" Sunil Chhetri


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