AFC Asian Cup 2019: India coach Stephen Constantine feels great to have given fans hope after Thailand win

India coach Stephen Constantine felt it was a positive feeling to have fans expecting big things from his side and feels proud to have given the nation hope.

Kaushal Shukla January 10, 2019 14:39:35 IST
AFC Asian Cup 2019: India coach Stephen Constantine feels great to have given fans hope after Thailand win
  • Coach Stephen Constantine felt it was a positive feeling to have fans expecting big things from his side and feels proud to have given the nation hope.

  • Gurpreet Singh Sandhu hailed India'S mentality ahead of the clash against UAE, suggesting the Indian side are not intimidated by any opponent.

  • Sandesh Jhingan has felt India has undergone vast improvement since the disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign.

Abu Dhabi: India caught the eye of Asia with a shock 4-1 win over Thailand in their opening game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and have since raised expectations of the fans back home and in the Emirates alike.

India's performance has been taken note of with Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and Japan captain Maya Yoshida all mentioning the result against Thailand as one of the stand-out ones in the competition so far.

AFC Asian Cup 2019 India coach Stephen Constantine feels great to have given fans hope after Thailand win

Coach Stephen Constantine during India's match against Thailand. AFP/Khaled Desouki

India's position at the top of Group A standings have given fans genuine belief that the team can make it to the knockout stages of the competition. The Blue Tigers are in a position to become the first team to book a knockout if they beat UAE on Thursday, a situation unimaginable a few days back.

On being asked if the raised expectations has added pressure on the Indian side, coach Stephen Constantine felt it was a positive feeling to have fans expecting big things from his side and feels proud to have given the nation hope.

"We started with zero expectations in 2015. It's fantastic that we have given so many people hope through football. I hope that India can finally be among the elite, not by chance, because we deserve to be there. It's fantastic. I want everybody to believe that we can qualify. This is what football is all about. Believing and qualifying for the big events," the Indian coach said ahead of the UAE game.

The 56-year-old, however, said India must now focus on building consistency and participating in big tournaments like the Asian Cup on a more regular basis. India's win over Thailand was their first in 54 years in Asia's premier football tournament and Constantine believed India must not be made to wait for its next win for so long.

"We need to continue to be at these events regularly, not every 15 or 20 or 8 years. Someone told me that the win (against Thailand) was the first win in 54 years. It can't be that way for us in India. We must be qualifying for these tournaments on a regular basis. Hopefully, that will happen in the future," Constantine stated.

We are not scared of facing any team: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu hailed the team's mentality ahead of the clash against UAE, suggesting the Indian side are not intimidated by any opponent and firmly believe that they can be competitive against the best in the continent.

"I didn't think people used to believe that India could win. But now getting that out of the way, we have given ourselves a great boost. We believe that we can play against the big teams in Asia and compete. We are not scared of anyone," Sandhu told reporters after the team's training in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

"We didn't come here to lose. We came here to win and improve and make sure that we are a team that is difficult to play against. We want to appear in the Asian Cup as often as possible in the future. It's good to have that optimism," Sandhu added.

Centre-back Sandesh Jhingan has felt the team has undergone vast improvement since the disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign and felt the long route which the Indian team took on their way to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup has served important lessons for the team.

"We have worked very hard for it. I remember when I made my debut in 2015, the Asian Cup was the main thing. To play 18 games and to come here finally after three years of work as a unit, it's good to see that our hard work has paid off dividends," Jhingan said.

"It was not a good time for us when we were losing in the World Cup qualifiers. Everything was negative. But it's a saying that when you are in the gutter, always look at the stars. We did just that and I'm glad today we have turned things around," the Indian defender added.

The Indian rearguard will have their hands full against UAE on Thursday, but a clean sheet will go a long way in pushing India towards the knockout stage. In front of a vociferous home crowd, it will be easier said than done, but Jhingan, Gurpreet and India have been there before.

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