India are set to take on Thailand in their Asian Cup 2019 Group A opener on Sunday evening at the Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
Ahead of facing the South East Asian giants, Indian coach Stephen Constantine said, “We are expecting a tough game against Thailand. They are quite a good side. We are really looking forward to the game.”
The British coach pointed out that India are the third youngest side in the competition this time and the youngsters are raring to go. He said, “We are a very young side, I think the second youngest side (third youngest) in the Asian Cup and I am sure we will give everything on the pitch.”
Constantine was asked as to what has been the most prominent change in the Indian team since he took charge back in 2015 when India were languishing in the 173rd spot.
"I think the mentality of the team has changed over the years. When I took charge of the team, the mentality was to not try to lose by too many goals. I think that has changed in four years. We are now going into every game thinking we can win.
“The work rate has increased in the last four years. The boys put a lot of effort into the games and training. The unity of the team and the work rate is why we are here.”
Constantine suggested that he will not tweak the style of the team ahead of their opening clash in the Asian Cup.
He said, “I think we try to attack in every game but it is not always possible when you are playing against tough opponents. We are a hard working team and it is difficult to beat us. We are not going to play a different style from what we are used to.”
Stephen also mentioned that India will have a tough time against a technically sound Thai side. “Thailand are technically very good and they have got a number of very good players. They are in top form. They run around a lot and they interchange very well. It will be difficult for us as our next two game will be against UAE and Bahrain. There are no easy games for us. But we are taking one game at a time,” said the Indian coach.
Thailand lost to Oman 2-0 in their final friendly match ahead of the Asian Cup but Constantine refused to take the result into consideration.
“Both coaches were trying out players, giving opportunities to other players. You can't take too much out of that game. It was more about keeping them in shape."
Constantine acknowledged that his side should have possibly played at least a couple more international matches before the Asian Cup.
"The mood is great. We got here as early as we could to try and prepare ourselves. I think we've done that. If you ask me if we could have used a couple more friendly games, yes, I would've taken that. That wasn't in my hands unfortunately. But the plus point is that we don't have too many injuries.”