Stephen Constantine: We have the opportunity to make history against Bahrain
In what promises to be a nail-biting encounter, India will take on Bahrain in their final Group A encounter of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Al-Sharjah Stadium in UAE on Monday. With three points in their bag, Stephen Constantine’s men will be looking for a victory to seal their passage to the Round of 16. Likewise, Bahrain will also be hoping for a win to stand any chance of remaining in the competition.
At the pre-match press conference before the matchday, Constantine addressed the media and talked about the team’s preparations. Speaking about Bahrain, the veteran coach seemed well aware of their quality, but reaffirmed his confidence in his team’s ability. "It’ll be a tough game but the team is ready. Bahrain are a good team. But we're a quality team as well and we can put up a good show. We are pumped and excited to be in the situation we are in. I’m sure they’re going to try and attack us, but we’re prepared," he said.
Continuing on the same note, Constantine shared his thoughts on Bahrain’s performances so far, saying, "In the first game (against UAE), Bahrain were the better side. They were extremely unlucky against Thailand and we hope they are unlucky against us. They have to win; a draw will do nothing for them."
With India tied on three points with Thailand in Group A and the situations in other groups favouring them, a draw would be enough to confirm India’s passage to the next round. However, Constantine stressed that the team only have victory on their minds. "We are not playing for the draw. We’re going for the win. We don’t know how to play for a draw. We're going for the win whatever happens," he declared.
While India’s participation in the AFC Asian Cup is a remarkable achievement in itself, Constantine seemed intent on going a step further to make history. "We’ve done a tremendous job in the last four years. I’m absolutely over the moon that we qualified. India deserves to be here and now we're one step away from qualifying for the last 16, which will be massive for Indian football as a whole. It will be a huge opportunity for us to make history against Bahrain on Monday and that’s what we want to do," he said.
Constantine also heaped praise on Sunil Chhetri and said, "He is the Messi of India. He’s a fantastic player. He keeps scoring at the international level and for his club on a regular basis. He’s been a great player for India for many years. I hope that continues to be this way."
Sandesh Jhingan accompanied Constantine to the presser and was asked about the team's disappointing loss to UAE in their last match. Responding to the question, the defender said, "I personally believe that we deserved more than the defeat. The good thing is that no matter how harsh the result is, we’ll always get over it. The squad is filled with strong characters."
Jhingan was also hopeful that the years of hard work the team has put in will shine through in the crunch tie against Bahrain. "Hope we can keep a clean sheet and score goals up front. We have worked hard tirelessly since the gaffer came in. Here we are, and we deserve it. We have had a good Asian Cup so far and it shows the work we’ve done. Tomorrow is another day to perform and get the points to qualify."
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