India began their Asian Cup 2019 campaign in style as they defeated Thailand 4-1 at the Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening. With the game locked at 1-1 at half-time, India came out all guns blazing in the second half as they pumped in three goals more to register an emphatic and memorable win which will be etched in the hearts of every Indian football fan.
Stephen Constantine was pleased with the performance of his players as expressed his delight on helping India win their first game in the Asian Cup after 55 years.
“I am delighted with the performance. I thought the boys fought for the entire 93 minutes. I am happy to get our first win in the Asian Cup after so many years.
Constantine was asked as to what he said at half-time in order to spur his players as they looked a formidable outfit after the break.
“I don't know what you mean by out of control,” responded the Englishman after it was mentioned that the team wasn’t in control of the proceedings in the first 45 minutes.
“We took the lead. It was quite an evenly matched first half. We had some small adjustments at half-time. I think the problem we had was that we were giving the ball away too much. We tried to look after the ball in the second half, I think we did. It helped when we got that early goal and Thailand were on the backfoot after that,” he explained.
The 4-1 win was India’s biggest result at the Asian Cup since their 3-1 victory over Hong Kong in Israel’s Asian Cup 1964. Constantine however, wants his team to not get swayed by emotion and instead focus on the task at hand against UAE on the 10th of this month.
“We try to win every game. We want to compete, be competitive. I think we have done very well in the last two-to-three years. It is a process. We are not getting carried away. We won a game, there are two games left.
“We need another two points at least to have hopes of qualifying, we came here to qualify. It is time we are no longer looking at India in the way we were. I think today, people got a good look at what we are capable of.
"If I say it is just another result, will that be a cliche? Because it is. We are in the finals and that is a big deal in itself. We have won one game. Two more games left.”
The experienced coach sprung a surprise by including Ashique Kuruniyan in the first eleven and the FC Pune City winger produced a top notch performance.
“Ashique is very raw, young and strong. He is fit but he needs to do a lot of things to be the complete player. We wanted a bit of space, bit of physicality. He is a bit quicker than Jeje (Lalpekhlua) and Balwant (Singh) and that was the thought process - to try and stretch and make it difficult for them. And he did not stop running, so fair play to him,” he shared the reason as to why he handed Kuruniyan a start.