The All India Football Federation (AIFF) technical director and former Indian national team coach Savio Madeira has praised the work put in by Stephen Constantine and his backroom staff for the progress of the Indian team
The Blue Tigers are set to take on hosts UAE in their second Group A game at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup following a stunning 4-1 win against Thailand in the opener.
The Goan coach praised the efforts of the team in an exclusive interview to Goal, "It was a very good performance. We started well in the first half but somehow Thailand started dominating in the midfield where they tried to take over in the last 25 minutes of the first half. We had a good lead, that was good confidence but we conceded one.
"But the total transformation of the team in the second half was great to watch - getting goals regularly, not allowing Thailand to function as they had done in the first half, trying to press them and not allowing them to be comfortable on the ball. That was a very good start. Big boost for the team to go into the next two games."
Watch Goal's exclusive interview with Savio Madeira on Facebook:
Madeira was Bob Houghton's assistant during India's 2011 AFC Asian Cup campaign. He feels that Stephen Constantine and his staff have built a good stage for Indian football since taking charge in 2015.
"Credit should be given to the coach and his staff for getting this team up to this level. Because the fitness levels are very good at the moment. In the second-half against Thailand, I feel we could have played another 30 minutes easy.
"Awareness in the players after they joined when the coach came in is getting more and more to keep themselves fit and injury free. The matches they get in the ISL, playing with some of the top players from other countries, have helped them to build their confidence. It is a mixture of all put together. But not to take credit away from the coach and the staff who have brought this team together."
India's all-time top scorer Sunil Chhetri, who scored a brace against Thailand, took his international goals' tally to 67. Madeira has borne witness to the growth of Chhetri as a footballer and the former Salgaocar midfielder believes the smooth transition of players like Chhetri from being a young player to being a senior presence in the dressing room has helped India achieve a good mixture of youth and experience in the squad.
"Sunil is a very good leader on and off the field. I think besides him, the senior players did try to welcome the juniors and that was a good mixture. That is how it has helped the junior boys to come up and build that relationship with the senior players.
Talking about Indian football's growth, he further added, "The base that we have created, from the juniors to the seniors, if we don't try to continue the work from the last 3-4 years and relax now, we will go back (in our progress). The best thing that has happened to the junior teams is that a lot of exposure which has been happening of late.
"During our playing days, there was no exposure at all. Playing against better teams in different conditions and countries has helped the players to understand the different opponents, styles of football and pressure situations. And they're coping well. The junior teams are doing quite well and if we continue doing that, it should be a good thing to focus on in the future years to come. If we relax and think that it is going to be okay in the coming years, then it is not."
Madeira stressed the importance of letting a coach do his work, especially when it comes to choosing his squad. Stephen Constantine has faced criticism for his team selection but the former India head coach has backed the Briton to do his job in his own way.
"I would totally trust the coach no matter who he is, in these kinds of situations. Because the coach will see according to his philosophy - the players that he needs and the players who will help him get results and what he wants to achieve. No matter how many talks against it, I would leave it entirely up to the coach to decide what he wants and why he wants it. He is the best judge in these situations, which is being proven now. It entirely depends on the coach."
He also felt that it is the right time to provide exposure for Indian coaches, "The education for coaches is very important for us. We have to produce good coaches, we have seen it of late with some of the junior teams.
"We are looking at more of Indian coaches, although our Indian coaches lack a bit of exposure, this is the right time for us to promote them. We are also working on their education side," he concluded.