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STEPHEN CONSTANTINE 

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INDIA NATIONAL TEAM HEAD COACH

UEFA Pro License Holder and FIFA Instructor

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Here is where I share my latest news and of course my views on all things football....

By Stephen Constantine, May 14 2018 06:22AM




We now know who we face in the Asian Cup finals in the UAE in January 2019. Looking at our group, I have already said that we have a chance to qualify - but of course it will not be easy, and we will have to be at our very best during the games. Let’s have a quick look at who we are facing,


UAE

The host nation are led by Alberto Zaccheroni, who has coached several of the big teams in Italy including Juventus, Udinese, and both the Milan sides, as well as Japan. He brings a wealth of experience - in his first tournament with the team they finished runners up in the Gulf Cup, losing 5-4 on penalties to Oman. The recently lost their last two friendly internationals to Gabon and Slovakia but will for sure be a difficult team to break down. They are an experienced side, and Omar Abdulrahman Ahmedis is someone to look out for. Of course there are some other very good players too, and they have quality all over the pitch. They vary from a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1 depending on who they are playing, so they will be a big test for us. Of course they are at home - but we will have huge Indian support and we will not be alone in the Emirates.


THAILAND

Thailand are current champions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, winning it for the fifth time by beating Indonesia 3-2 over the two legs. They are now coached by Milovan Rajevac, another very experienced  coach originally from Serbia. He has had spells with Ghana, which is where I met him, as well as Algeria and Qatar. They prefer a 4-4-2 but this can (and usually does) change depending on the game. Thailand have pace all over the field and can cause all sorts of problems. Their last few results have been mixed, but there is a long way to go and all the teams - including us - are more focused on fine-tuning the system. Thailand are our first game and it should be a great occasion.


BAHRAIN

A team that has gone under the radar for some time, they have quietly gone about their business and qualified for the Asian Cup finals thrashing Turkmenistan 4-0 in their last qualifying game in March. They have also had impressive results in the Gulf Cup against Qatar and Iraq. Abdulla Yusuf Helal, the big striker, has been scoring recently for them - two top-class finishes against Turkmenistan are evidence the 24-year-old youngster is dangerous. With the experienced Abdulla Abdo Omar supplying the passes, they could be a threat to any team. Bahrain are coached by the Czech Miroslav Soukup, who made his name through pretty much all of the Czech national teams from U18,19,20 and U21s. He has also coached Yemen and has plenty of experience. They like to go 4-2-3-1 most of time and will sometimes go with a 4-4-1-1. As any coach will tell you, it is all about your preparation, and then what happens on the day. Bahrain will be no pushover.


Comments from 3 of the 4 teams


Group A: UAE, Thailand, India, Bahrain


Hosts UAE will be aiming to stamp their mark early on as they look to go one better after finishing runners-up in the 1996 AFC Asian Cup, which they also hosted. Thailand, India and Bahrain, however, will also be confident of advancing to the Round of 16, especially as the six group winners, six runners-up and four best third-place teams will qualify for the knockout stage.


What they said:


Alberto Zaccheroni - UAE Head Coach: “I am comfortable with the draw and believe that we have a good chance of advancing to the round of 16”.


Stephen Constantine - India Head coach: “I think it’s a group that we have expectations. I believe on our day we can beat anybody, obviously it will not be easy but I think there are possibilities to qualify from this group.”


Miroslav Soukup - Bahrain Head Coach: “What can I say, we have a very interesting group because we’re playing against the hosts in the opening game in front of 50,000 to 60,000 spectators, it will be great for our team. But I heard that people are saying that our group is not difficult, but whoever qualified to the Asian Cup Finals, they are strong and they have quality.


Some of the 24 Asian Cup Coaches after the draw
Some of the 24 Asian Cup Coaches after the draw


The fixtures have also been done and here are the dates and the opponents……..


Saturday January 5th 2019

UAE V BAHRAIN Zayed Stdium Abu Dhabi


Sunday January 6th 2019

THAILAND V INDIA AlNahyan Stadium Abu Dhabi


Thursday January 10th 2019

INDIA V UAE Zayed Stdium Abu Dhabi

BHARAIN V THAILAND Al Maktoum Stadium Dubai


Monday January 14th 2019

UAE V THAILAND Zayed Stdium Abu Dhabi

INDIA V BAHRAIN Sharjah Stadium , Sharjah





By Stephen Constantine, May 12 2018 06:36AM

I’m delighted to say that my autobiography, From Delhi to the Den, has been nominated for Football Book of the Year at the Sports Book of the Year Awards in the UK.


The book came out last June, and I have been absolutely thrilled that so many people have enjoyed it. I was persuaded to write the book by my friend Owen Amos, who is a BBC journalist in London. It took a lot of hard work to pull together so nominations like this are really pleasing.


We are in great company – other nominees include Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague, Fleet Street legend Patrick Barclay, and the Indiana Jones of football writing, James Montague.


The winner will be announced at Lord’s cricket ground in London on 7 June. Of course, I will be hard at work at the Intercontinental Cup but Owen will be there.


http://sportsbookawards.com/jenson-button-jonny-bairstow-and-judy-murray-lead-a-prestigious-shortlist-for-best-autobiography-of-the-year-award/


A huge thank you to everyone who has bought the book. Here’s hoping we write another chapter at the Asian Cup finals in January!


By Stephen Constantine, Apr 4 2018 05:53AM

A 1-2 loss at the hands of Kyrgyzstan away ended our AFC Qualification process and our 14 game unbeaten run. It had to end sooner or later, and while I am disappointed with both the result, and the end of this historic run, it is time to move on. We have 10 months to start preparing for the Asian Cup Finals in the UAE in January 2019 and there is a lot to do.


Going forward we have to understand a couple of things. Firstly we need to prepare well and ensure that come January we have a fully fit and competitive team. To do that, we need to have competition among the players. We had in our last squad 11 under-23 players, which again shows you that we are developing players and getting them to pressure senior players for places in the squad.


However, just because the player is there, that does not mean he is ready. There is a huge gap from our domestic leagues to the International arena and it takes time to make the change. If we throw in a player too soon he could have a bad game, lose his confidence, and then we will have to wait and see how he recovers - or if he recovers. By giving them a few minutes here and there, it allows them to adjust to the pace and quality he is going to face at international level.


I know many people want this player or that player, and I understand everyone wants to see the player they like in the team, but it is not always possible. In our last game we started Ruattara who started for the National Team for the first time, and overall I though he did okay. Thapa came on and did well, as did Jerry. Udanta was another one – so that’s four under-23s involved. In our previous game against Mynamar, Germanpreet, Jerry and Udanta started, with Thapa coming in off the bench. So we are slowly giving them time and experience in international games, in the hope that come January they have some experience and we are not going to the unknown.  


Of course we want to win those games before the finals, but we also need to make sure we are giving the young players their opportunity so, come the finals, the afore-mentioned players will hopefully be regular players in the senior team. I would also add there are several more players from the U23s that are also very close to breaking through.


No doubt winning in Kyrgyzstan would have been great, and we would have gone to our highest ever FIFA ranking, but we finished top of the group and that is the first time India has ever done that. On the rankings, let me give a small explanation - as many of you have asked me and some of you don’t know how it works. 


There is a mathematical formula that is involved and some of the variables involved are Strength of Confederation. So if you play a team from UEFA, and you beat them, it is worth more than beating a team from your own confederation. If the game is in the World Cup you get more points from winning that game, because of the importance of the competition. So when we play Laos and Nepal and win in a qualifier, it gives us a certain number of points. However if we lose that game - even in a friendly - we are going to lose points because of their FIFA rankings.


If we want to play China in a friendly, we are below China, so they look at the game and say ‘Okay, if we play and lose to India, we will lose points and go down in the ranking.’ Even a draw would lower their rankings, so they don’t want to play us - the same way we don’t want to play other teams that are below us. The problem is, we need games and we must have a regular number of games during the season so that we are not inactive for two or three months. It is vital that we play, albeit against teams that we know we are going to beat. I really hope that explains a little about the FIFA rankings.


The other thing about the rankings is that, if you haven’t played for a while you will fall as teams around you are playing. So New Zealand, who have most of their players playing in Europe, are below us - because they don’t play too many games in the International window.


The rankings are only important in two areas for me.


1) The higher you are, the more chance you have of not going into the pre-qualifiers, like we were doing in 2015 when I arrived.


2) Your positioning in pots for the AFC and FIFA  competitions draw is sometimes important. We could for example be in pot 3, which means we avoid certain teams.


Going forward, we have already sent out correspondence to teams for future friendly games and of course the Intercontinental Cup will provide some very stiff competition. These are the games that we will look to get experience for the younger players, and deal with playing bigger teams. The pressure we will be under will all help us prepare for the Asian Cup. By playing the so-called bigger teams it will show us where we are in terms of development and naturally we are going to be under pressure for long periods of time in those games.


We must learn to deal with this and be able to respond so it is vital that we get the experience of playing these sides and understand what is going to face us in the Asian Cup. The draw is in a few weeks, and once that is done we will reach out to other associations to try and book some games between now and January.


Finally to all of our fans: after a very long time we have again qualified for a major event and deservedly so. It was for sure a struggle - a struggle that could not have been done without you the fans supporting us through thick and thin. We have achieved our goals, now we need to buckle down and prepare. We, India, needs to be at these events every time not every once in a blue moon. Remember in 2015 we were 173 in the world, had not won the SAFF, and had a squad with an average age of 31, compared to now which is 24. We have achieved our highest ranking, 97, for a very long time and we have a group of players who are hungry to have success with the Indian National Team. None of this happens without you, and of course the AIFF. So get behind the players, and the team, and let’s go to the Asian Cup and cause some problems!


Jai Hind







By Stephen Constantine, Feb 20 2018 07:32AM



After accepting my second contract extension with the All India Football Federation, I will have the longest tenure of any foreign coach in Indian history, with a total of seven years (2002 – 2005; 2015 – 2019).


I am of course immensely proud of that, and of our accomplishments in both stints. This time round, qualifying for the Asian Cup in 2019, winning the SAFF, and taking India to its highest ranking in modern history, 96 are all great achievements. I really could not have done this without the support of the AIFF, my staff and, of course, the players.


We have - as usual - a very hectic and busy schedule, starting with our last qualifier of the Asian Cup, away to Kyrgyzstan on March 27th.

Let me start this year’s blog with the tentative calendar for our senior and U-23 teams, remembering the FIFA dates which this year are:

March 19-27

June 14–July 15 World Cup (no internationals are permitted in this period )

September 3-11

October 8-16

November 12-20.


We then of course have the Asian Cup Finals from January 5th to February 1st 2019. National team camps will be as per the FIFA guidelines where applicable.

There will then be a break in the ISL season so we can have a few more weeks to prepare for the Asian Cup in January.


So there you have a rough guide to what is coming up for us this year, a lot of football to be played and remembering the need for all the clubs to prepare and get ready for their own seasons.


It is going to be a tough season and hopefully an injury-free one as well. As we head into the start of this schedule in March we already have several players out with injury and or suspensions.


We are going to need all hands on deck going forward. As always with me, it is the players that are willing to play for the team and do the work that interest me.


We have shown over the last two years that the current group of players are fighters and will give everything in every game.


The door is open to any Indian player who is willing to do the work, the job we need him to, in the National Team.


In closing I would like to say a special thank you to all our fans around the world – your support has really kept us all going. You have been with us through thick and thin - Jai Hind!



By Stephen Constantine, Dec 10 2017 08:43PM



To everyone all over the world I hope 2018 is the year that you want it to be ………….as we close out on 2017 I have much to be thankful for.


It has been an amazing year as Indian National Team has for sure taken huge steps forward. Of course this is not possible without the tremendous effort of my players and back room staff, they have all been quite amazing as well. To have qualified for the Asian Cup with two games to spare was huge, but to still be unbeaten over 13 games spanning 2 years is well special.


Looking back on our recent results we are actually 18 games unbeaten out of our last 20 games. We have introduced some 36 new players into the national team and with a very decent group of U23s knocking on the door it has been a very productive couple of years. The league in India is continuing to improve and we will hopefully continue to get better.


What does 2018 have in store for us, well there it is going to be quite a busy program staring in March of course with our last AFC qualifier in Kyrgyzstan on the 27th, of course we go into that game already qualified but I can assure you we will not be taking it lightly. We have the Asian Games to consider and several other possible opportunities to play International fixtures as we prepare for the Asian Cup in January 2019.


But for the next few weeks I will be home with the family enjoying the quality time with them, lastly but by no means least my message to all our Indian fans thank you so much for your support it is of course Massive to see you all every game where ever we go and we really do appreciate it ………..Jai Hind

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