As the euphoria and joy continue to ebb following a brilliant win for the Indian national team over Thailand in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup opener, head coach Stephen Constantine would be a happy man.
The British coach is in his second stint with India and has had his share of detractors over the course of them. But the 56-year-old has answered them in his inimatable style by masterminding a terrific 4-1 win over Thailand and a brilliant performance.
It is not new ground for the coach though.
He has made his mark in both the stints with India and the Thailand win is just another feather in his cap.
Constantine's initial period in charge of the Blue Tigers began on a brilliant note when he took a young Indian squad (U23) with a few senior players to the LG Cup in Vietnam in 2002. Following a draw against Singapore (U23) and a win over Vietnam U23s, India reached the final with a win over Petrokimia Club of Indonesia.
The final would then be won 3-2 in dramatic fashion with Abhishek Yadav coming on as a substitute to grab the winner in the dying minutes. India were 2-0 down initially and Bhaichung Bhutia's brace had restored parity before Yadav made his mark.
It was India's first win in the final of a major tournament in almost 31 years. Interestingly, that was the country's first major win in football in 28 years after the bronze medal win in the 1972 Asian Football Championship. That too, it came in a final and it was away from home.
Now, in his second stint, Constantine has taken the team further. Brushing off criticism over player selections and playing style in his usually quiet manner, the coach helped India qualify for the Asian Cup after a gap of eight years and helped India break into the top-100 of the FIFA rankings.
Now, he stands vindicated after handing the country its first ever win in the Asian Cup since 1964 and its biggest ever in the competition. For, it was his trust in the side's core that has paid off, with the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pronay Halder, Ashique Kuruniyan all impressing.
As the fans and pundits enjoy a glorious win and shower praise on the head coach, Constantine will be smiling to himself. The history-maker has added a new feather to his cap but he would know the job is not done yet. There are two more important games to come against Bahrain and UAE.
And hopefully, further matches in the competition as well.