The win will be remembered for being Igor Stimac’s first victory as India coach and it helped the team complete a recent double over the War Elephants. Just five months ago, India had recorded a historic 4-1 win over Thailand in their 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup campaign opener in the UAE.
The second win over Thailand is only a continuation of India’s formidable record against ASEAN and South East Asian countries in general over the past few years.
In fact, India’s last defeat against a country from the region came all the way back in March 2013 when they were beaten 1-0 by Myanmar in a crucial AFC Challenge Cup clash at Yangon under Dutch coach Wim Koevermans.
India were regularly losing to South East Asian opposition in the years leading up to the Myanmar loss but there has been a fundamental shift in the power balance ever since.
Since that loss in Yangon, India have notched up victories over the likes of Laos, Cambodia, Macao, Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and twice over Thailand.
Most of the losses India have sustained during the same period have come against opposition from the Middle East but the picture has been completely different when it comes to the South Asian and South East Asian countries.
The improvement in record against the South East Asian opposition has come primarily during Stephen Constantine’s second stint as coach of the Indian team. The Englishman has overseen victories over Myanmar, Cambodia, Macao, Myanmar, Thailand and Chinese Taipei with most of the wins coming during India’s 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying run. Constantine's team did lose to Maldives in the SAFF Championship final last year but the Englishman had fielded an U23 side.
However, Igor Stimac's side produced a heartening display to continue that dominance with a 1-0 win on Saturday. He managed to best Thailand at their home with a second string side.
While India haven’t faced the likes of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent years, India’s strong results against such opposition bodes well ahead of the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which are set to get underway in September this year.
Slowly but surely India needs to establish themselves as a force to reckon with in the Asian circuit and start competing with the West Asian team as well.