India's best finish in the continental competition AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup came 55 years ago when they finished runners-up.
In 1964, India gained a direct qualification to the finals of the tournament after several Western Zone teams pulled out due to political reasons. 14 years after the country missed out on FIFA World Cup participation, the Indian national team had earned the opportunity to take centre stage in Asian football under English coach Harry Wright.
Played in a round-robin format, the 1964 edition of the Asian Cup was won by hosts Israel but it had only four participants - one team from each zone. And with wins over South Korea and Hong Kong, India cemented second place. Inder Singh became team's top scorer with two goals. India are yet to better this performance.
The team had to wait 20 years to qualify for the finals again. And when they did, a group stage disaster awaited the Men in Blue. The 10 participants were divided into two groups of five and India were placed in Group B alongside China PR, Iran, UAE and hosts Singapore.
India lost three games and held Iran to a goalless draw to come away with a just a point in 1984. Saudi Arabia clinched their first Asian title, defeating China PR in the final. The legendary Krishanu Dey was part of Serbian coach Milovan Ćirić's Indian national team squad that battled it out with heavyweights like China PR and Iran.
The 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar marked India's most recent continental campaign. The Blues qualified on the virtue of being the winners of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winner. A Sunil Chhetri hat-trick and a goal by Bhaichung Bhutia helped hosts India defeat Tajikistan in the final of the Challenge Cup and qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time in 27 years.
Japan lifted their fourth Asian Cup by defeating Australia 1-0 in the final and India recorded their worst Asian Cup output in history. Drawn into Group C from Pot 4, the Blues lost all three of their group games to get dumped out of the tournament without any points on the board.
Tim Cahill's brace helped Australia register a 4-0 win against India in the group opener. Gouramangi Singh and Chhetri scored in either half as India lost 2-5 to Bahrain and Chhetri's first-half spot-kick was the team's only consolation as South Korea thrashed them 1-4 in the final game in Group C. Under Bob Houghton, the squad that took part in the 2011 edition of the tournament had both experience and youth but they failed to live up to expectations.
And a few months later, Houghton stepped down from the position of head coach.
Eight years later, Indian national teams is set to travel to UAE for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup under head coach Stephen Constantine. The nation's FIFA Ranking is close to an all-time high and the Blues have qualified to the finals as group-toppers ahead of Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau.
Even as questions and expectations surround the coach and the players, Constantine and co. will be looking to make history at the continental level, 55 years after another English coach and his players recorded the country's best finish in Asia till date.