The All India Football Federation (AIFF) technical committee chairman and former Indian footballer Shyam Thapa commended the Indian football team for their excellent performance in the 4-1 win against Thailand on Sunday.
India set the ball rolling on their 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign with all three points in their Group A opener at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The Blue Tigers are top of Group A after the first matchday as hosts UAE were held by Bahrain in the tournament opener.
"It is a much improved India side. Both individually and collectively the team has improved a lot. They played wonderful football. All were very good goals," Shyam Thapa spoke to Goal.
"Sunil (Chhetri) was very confident while taking the penalty and his second goal was brilliantly struck. During the third goal, Anirudh (Thapa) showed his capability to think quick and the chip was fantastic.
"And I always expect Jeje Lalpekhlua to score. He reminded me of my playing days as we were instructed to tolla kore goal maar (hit with the underside of your toe). I do not know whether he used that technique but he hit and the ball went straight into the net. Neither of them were fluke goals," he analysed. "The defence also played well. Jhingan looked confident and it was a good overall performance. Ashique's speed was very good. He has raw speed. He has a good future."
The former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan footballer also wanted Constantine to play with caution with fixtures against UAE and Bahrain coming up for India. A point could seal progression from the group for Stephen Constantine's team and Thapa reckons India should play it safe.
"India should adopt the tactic of 'watch and play' at least in the first half (against UAE). We should not go for the kill right from the first moment. They have drawn while we have won. So already we are in an advantageous position. Even if we can draw then it will be a good result. Play safe and then counter-attack."
Thapa felt Indian players have improved physically but he expects an improved midfield display against host nation UAE on January 10.
"I felt that there is some room for improvement in our midfield. Our next match is a tough match and India should try to better the midfield by working more on playing constructive football.
"Yes, India have improved their physical fitness as well. They chased the game well and they played with the same pace for the entire 90 minutes. That is football. We are not as powerful as Bahrain and UAE. But if we can run for 90 minutes and chase for 90 minutes we will be able to compete better."
India take on UAE in their second group game on Thursday at the Zayed Sports City.