New Delhi: AIFF secretary Kushal Das on Monday said the Indian national football team’s “prime target” now is to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
Masterminded superbly by ace striker Sunil Chhetri, a dominant India scripted a sensational 4-1 win over higher-ranked Puerto Rico in an international football friendly in Mumbai on September 4.
The win has rekindled interest among fans and the team is also expected to gain in rankings, which could be crucial to India’s prospects of qualifying for the tournament which they last played in 2011.
When asked if they are looking to play more international friendlies, Das said, “It is not just about playing. It is about strategising. The goal is to go to pot 2 of Asian Cup qualifiers, let’s see how the draw pans out. Our prime target is to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.”
Teams in pot 2 are a bit weaker in comparison.
“Now we are on 205 points, in October we are expected to reach 230 points because of the win over Puerto Rico and in November we hope to be somewhere around 217 points. We are looking to have 215-220 points by the draw takes place.
“To offset the 13 points we lost due to defeats in the past, we will have to play teams above 90 in Fifa rankings and that is tough,” Das said.
The result against Puerto Rico was India’s fourth straight victory after the 1-2 loss to Turkmenistan in the World Cup qualifier in Kochi in March early this year.
They had got past Laos 6-1 and 1-0 in the Asia Cup qualifiers in June and then drubbed Bhutan 3-0 last month in another international friendly.
India have not beaten higher-ranked teams often in the past and had even lost 1-2 to Afghanistan in the SAFF Cup in Kochi in January.
National coach Stephen Constantine reiterated it’s important to play as international friendlies and called it a great result for the team.