Stephen Constantine India Oman
National team coach Stephen Constantine says the road ahead for India in the Russia 2018 pre-qualifiers is very toughAIFF Media

Indian National Football Team head coach Stephen Constantine has admitted that their opponents have the upper hand as the Russia 2018 World Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification games get under way later this year.

The men's national football team will take on Iran, which is in the 41st place in FIFA ranking, on 8 September at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore in the pre-qualifiers. But, before that India will play a friendly game against Nepal on 31 August at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune.

The preparation camp is also starting later this month in Pune, but is the English coach happy with the roadmap set for his side so far?

Referring to the FIFA rank of Iran -- the highest ranking Asian nation -- Constantine said that his side are at a huge disadvantage, not only because Iran are going to be a tough opponent but also because some of the Indian players are deprived of competitive games for at least two-three months.

"It's Iran, the 41st ranked Team in the World, the Giants of Asia. I feel that says it all," Constantine told AIFF Media.

"The International Friendly against Nepal is the sole competitive match that our boys would have played before taking on the Asian superpowers. You need to remember that prior to the match against Nepal, most of the National team Players have not played a competitive game since June 2015 (against Guam) while the others have not played since May 31, 2015, i.e., the completion of the I-League.

"So for some Players, its more than two months while for the rest, it's almost or even more than three months. The National Team is at a huge disadvantage," he added.

On playing a friendly against Nepal, which is in the 184th place, the ex-Rwanada tactician said, "There were options playing against higher ranked teams but seeing that we are playing a home game, we wanted to play at Home while those Teams wanted to play at their Home. So it didn't materialize. Under such circumstance, it's good we played some close to our Ranking."

India lost both of their World Cup 2018 pre-qualifiers in Group D this year. While they lost 2-1 to Oman on 11 June, five days later, they tasted a similar fate against Guam as well in an away game.

India are also drawn alongside Turkmenistan, apart from Iran, Guam, and Oman, in Group D. And the road ahead is tough, admits Constantine.

"The road for us is as tough as I had expected it to be," he said.

India are currently ranked 156th in the latest FIFA rankings.

The schedule of the upcoming World Cup pre-qualifier matches:

September 8, 2015: India vs Iran

October 8, 2015: Turkmenistan vs India

October 13, 2015: Oman vs India

November 12, 2015: India vs Guam

March 24, 2016: Iran vs India

March 29, 2016: India vs Turkmenistan

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