India have a huge opportunity to make history, says Constantine
Sunil Chettri (third left) will be India's key player.
Sharjah - Indian coach made it clear that his team would not be playing for a draw
By Rituraj Borkakoty
Published: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 9:19 PM
Last updated: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 11:32 PM
India's breathtaking counter-attacking football has already earned praise from their Asian Cup opponents.
The UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who has managed AC Milan, Juventus and Inter in the past, was so impressed with India's performance against the UAE in their 2-0 defeat that the Italian called the Blue Tigers a 'fast and dynamic team'.
Their stunning 4-1 win over Thailand in their opening game had already made heads turn and now a draw against Bahrain on Monday in their final game in Group A - a group in which all four teams (UAE, India, Thailand and Bahrain) have a chance to qualify - could help them make Asian Cup history.
Stephen Constantine, under whose leadership from the dugout India have made a steady progress in recent years, didn't shy away from showing his happiness as the cricket-obsessed country stands on the cusp of entering the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time in its football history.
"We have done a tremendous job in the last four years. India deserve to be here. And now we are one step away from qualifying for the next stage which will be massive for Indian football. It's going to be a huge opportunity for us to make history tomorrow," he said at the pre-match press conference at Sharjah Stadium on Sunday.
But Constantine admitted that it would be a tough game against a 'quality' Bahrain team that is facing a must-win situation.
"It's going to be a difficult game because Bahrain need to win to qualify. But we have prepared well and we have played well in the last two games. The boys are motivated to earn the qualification," he said.
The Indian coach, however, made it clear that his team would not be playing for a draw.
"We always play to win. I know they are a quality team. But we also have our quality. And we don't know how to play for a draw. We will obviously play for three points," he said.
Sunil Chhetri, who broke Lionel Messi's international goal-scoring record in the 4-1 win over Thailand, could again be the game-changer for India. "Yes, he has been a great player for India. I will say he is the Messi in Indian football. Hopefully, he will have another good game," Constantine said.
Meanwhile, Sandesh Jhingan, who was a part of that Indian team that lost to Bahrain in the 2011 Asian Cup, said it would be a special moment for him on Monday.
"I remember that match. But we have shown in recent years that we are now a good team. We must stick to our plans. If we can do that, we have a good chance," the 25-year-old defender said.