Abu Dhabi, Jan 9 (IANS) Indias 4-1 victory over Thailand in the opening match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 was phenomenal, but now Stephen Constantines boys have an even bigger task on hand.
Their next opponents are hosts UAE at the Zayed Sports City on Thursday where they will hope for a repeat.
India coach Stephen Constantine will be pleased with how the second half against Thailand turned out. India not only managed to shut down a lethal Thai attack after being tied 1-1 at the break, but also threatened at the other end through quick transitions in attack.
That stupendous show earned India three valuable points, a place on top of the group and a goal average of plus three.
“We have a very young side here and they are excited. Of course, hosts UAE will be a different game. They are a very good side but they are just another team standing in our way,” Constantine said.
India grabbed their chances against Thailand with the strikers clinical upfront. Sunil Chhetri scored a brace, while Jeje Lalpekhlua and Anirudh Thapa scored the other two goals.
Although he was not among the goals, the player who caught everyone’s eye was Ashique Kuruniyan. Chhetri and the FC Pune City winger had their eyes on goal whenever they were on the ball and the direct running of the latter and the technique and finishing prowess of the former left the opposition’s defence helpless. More of the same will be expected against a superior opponent in UAE.
With a FIFA ranking of 79, UAE are the highest-ranked team in Group A and pose a difficult challenge for India. The Whites will look to boss the midfield where Anirudh Thapa and Pronay Halder will come up against a tightly-knit three-man midfield.
India will also be required to be vigilant at the back as the likes of Ali Mabkhout and 2015 Asian Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil are goal-scorers with predatory instincts in the attacking third. Mabkhout is seven goals shy of becoming the UAE’s all-time top scorer. The defensive pairing of Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika will be kept busy at the back.
UAE will miss the services of the injured Omar Abdulrahman who is regarded as one of Asia’s best players, but Alberto Zaccheroni’s men have enough firepower to test Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in India’s goal.
UAE were held by Bahrain in their opening match and, in front of their home crowd, they will be eager to make amends.
“What we lacked on the pitch was the fighting qualities from the players. We will address this when we are preparing for the next game against India and we’ll come with a different attitude,” Zaccheroni said.