India captain Sunil Chhetri admits that his side face a tough task in their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers playoff clash with Laos on Thursday.
India have to ensure they emerge victorious in the first leg or their chances of reaching the qualifying stage of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup are likely to go up in smoke.
The Blue Tigers find themselves in this predicament after they finished at the bottom of Group D in the second round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Even though Laos suffered the same fate in Group G, Chhetri admitted that it would be a grave mistake for his side to underestimate their opponents.
“Some of my team-mates have been in Laos before but for me this is the first time,” he told IANS. “Seven-eight players of Laos Toyota FC played against Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup. The first time, they won 2-1; the second time, we won 2-1. It will not be an easy game.”
India head coach Stephen Constantine echoed Chhetri’s sentiments and added that the Blue Tigers cannot afford to go into the match with the mindset that they will beat Laos solely due to the fact that they are ranked higher. India are currently ranked 162nd, while Laos are 14 places below.
“There’s a tendency to judge teams by rankings,” he said. “But we know that Laos have some good players whom we watched in AFC Cup against Bengaluru FC. On top of that they would be playing at home. So we expect it to be difficult.”