Fringe players eye Asian Cup berth

The ISL will have an international break after mid December and entire focus will shift to the mega event in the UAE.

Mumbai: Indian national football team coach Stephen Constantine has made it clear that there are some places still up for grabs in the team ahead of the AFC Asian Cup. The quadrennial event is slated to happen in the UAE in January 2019 and India has qualified after 2011.

Many Indian players who have been part of the Indian football set up currently or in the past but haven’t been able to impress Constantine to be regular in the playing squad will be keen to make impact in the upcoming Indian Super League starting from September 29.

The ISL will have an international break after mid December and entire focus will shift to the mega event in the UAE.

For 20-year-old central midfielder Vinit Rai the aim will be to get in the Asian Cup squad after doing well in the SAFF Cup recently. He has played under Constantine in the same tournament. “I had a good experience of playing in the SAFF Cup. We did well as a team but it was disappointing to lose (to Maldives) in the final. My aim this season is to play more games, see how it goes and try to win trophy,” said the Delhi Dynamos player.

For FC Goa skipper Mandar Rao it has been frustrating to be at the fringes for long. The left-winger has been with FC Goa since inception having played under Zico for first three years and Sergio Lobera. The 26-year-old had most shots on target in ISL-4 but he ended up scoring just two goals.

“Who doesn’t want to play for national team but it depends on the coach (Constantine) if he wants me to play. Every player wants to score who plays up front, I will try my best to score at least five goals this year,” he said.

Mumbai City goalkeeper Amrinder Singh has been regular in the national team but he has warmed the bench mostly with Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh Sandhu being the first choice keeper.

Amrinder has played for India at the senior level in Sandhu’s absence and the 25-year-old ISL III golden glove winner will keen to replicate same performance for Mumbai City to make more impression.

“Yes it is a big tournament. But I don’t like to think about the future. I just think what I need to do in training. If I am giving my best in training, then nothing else matters. If I start thinking about the future then things can get difficult and complicated,” he said.

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