The Englishman will be aiming for another victory against The Whites to seal qualification to the knockout stages.
India’s 4-1 victory over Thailand in the opening match of the Asian Cup 2019 was phenomenal, but now Stephen Constantine’s boys have an even bigger task on hand. Their next opponents are hosts UAE at the Zayed Sports City on Thursday where they will hope for a repeat.
Coach Constantine will be pleased with how the second half against Thailand turned out. India not only managed to shut down a lethal Thai attack after being tied 1-1 at the break, but also threatened at the other end through quick transitions in attack.
Watch: Thailand 1-4 India, Goals and Highlights
That stupendous show earned India three valuable points, a place on top of the group and a goal average of plus three. “We have a very young side here and they are excited. Of course, hosts UAE will be a different game. They are a very good side but they are just another team standing in our way,” said Constantine.
India grabbed their chances against Thailand with the strikers clinical upfront. Sunil Chhetri scored a brace, while Jeje Lalpekhlua and Anirudh Thapa scored the other two goals.
The gaffer praised his team’s Mizo Sniper for his super-sub display, and also said, “Jeje is a very good player. But unfortunately, he did not have much game time recently. You put Jeje in the position and he will score for you. I was so happy that he scored the goal against Thailand. He deserves to get the goal, especially at this level.”
Although he was not among the goals, the player who caught everyone’s eye was Ashique Kuruniyan. Chhetri and the FC Pune City winger had their eyes on goal whenever they were on the ball and the direct running of the latter and the technique and finishing prowess of the former left the opposition’s defence helpless. More of the same will be expected against a superior opponent in UAE.
With a FIFA ranking of 79, UAE are the highest-ranked team in Group A and poses a difficult challenge for India. The Whites will look to boss the midfield where Anirudh Thapa and Pronay Halder will come up against a tightly-knit three-man midfield.
About UAE, Constantine said, “They are a physical, as well as a skillful side. I am not worried about our fitness. We have to play our best game to get the result.”
India will also be required to be vigilant at the back as the likes of Ali Mabkhout and 2015 Asian Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil are goal-scorers with predatory instincts in the attacking third. Mabkhout is seven goals shy of becoming UAE’s all-time top scorer. The defensive pairing of Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika will be kept busy at the back.
Talisman Chhetri proved his importance to his side with a match-winning performance against the War Elephants. About the Bengaluru man, the Constantine added, “Sunil has always given everything whenever he has played for the National Team. I can’t complain about this. He is there to do his job and his job is to score goals. He has a phenomenal scoring record and we’re better with him in the team.”
Against Thailand, Constantine’s tactical plan regarding the positioning of Kuriniyan worked too much aplomb. When asked, if he had any such trickery for the upcoming encounter, the Englishman quipped, “You have to wait and see.”