India head coach Stephen Constantine defended his players after a 2-0 loss against UAE despite putting in a spirited show on Thursday night.
The 56-year-old took aim at critics of his team after the match. He stated: “I believe in these boys, they have given me everything in the last four years and that is why I take it personally when they are criticized by some of these alleged pundits.
"I think it's unfair. They have delivered something which no one has delivered since 1964. When was the last time India played in the Asian Cup like this (style of play)? Maybe in 1964.”
On Thursday's game, Constantine opined that the result could have been different if India had converted at least one of their chances.
“We created enough chances in the first half to win two games. At this level, the boys were absolutely fantastic, we just didn't convert. Last game we did and it was 4-1. It could have been 4-0 today and had we have scored one of those goals, UAE would have been in trouble.”
Constantine went on to highlight the change in the approach of the Indian team in the last few years. He said, “In the last couple of years, we have started to take the game to teams. If you remember in the past, we would go a goal down and then think - 'Okay, now let's play because there is no pressure.'
"We have to learn to play with the pressure and I think we started to do that and hope we have the same kind of performance in a few days and get the result we deserved. Today, we didn't deserve to lose.”
The British coach spoke about the necessity of having quality Indian coaches in order to develop the footballing standard of the country. He said, “All of the UAE and Thailand players have one thing in common - all are comfortable on the ball. We don't have that. I talk about the coach education in India - We've got to make better coaches that will create better Indian players at this age.
“This is the thing we need to focus on. We don't know how much ability we have in India - that's how much ability we have. It's just we've got to go and find it. There needs to be more emphasis on good quality Indian coaches."
The Briton went on to talk up his assistant coach and former India international Shanmugam Venkatesh as one of the best in the country.
“I think Venkatesh is probably one of the best coaches in India and we need to give them the opportunities to create young Indian players. We have them but in a lot of cases, they don't have the foundation. Look at Ashique (Kuruniyan) - as raw as it gets and he will run all day long, which he did. If we would have had Ashique at seven or eight years old, he would not be playing in India, but in Europe.”