India crash out of AFC Asian Cup with 0-1 defeat to Bahrain
Football is a beautiful game, but it is unforgiving too: one rare blunder is all it takes to drastically alter the outcome of a game.
As the Indian players belted out the National Anthem before the game, one could tell they were on a mission to achieve what no Indian team had done before. They threw their bodies at the ball, defended doggedly and put up a fearless display.
With less than a minute left on the clock and the scoreline reading 0-0, it appeared Stephen Constantine’s men had done enough to earn a spot in the round-of-16.
But all such hopes fell apart when skipper Pronay Halder hacked down Hamed Alshamsan in the box. Bahrain’s gem of the evening, Rashed Abdulrahman, slotted past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to seal a berth in the knockouts.
The Indians got off on the wrong foot as centre-back Anas Edathodika was replaced by Salam Ranjan Singh after picking up an injury early. The defence initially looked a little jumpy held on to survive a constant onslaught of counter-attacks. Bahrain, which breached the Indian box very early in the game, played a large majority of the next 90 minutes in and around the box with its attackers running circles around the Indian defence. Abdulrahman was the thorn in India’s defence with his runs.
Constantine’s tactics seemed clear: to retain bodies at the back and wait for the rare counter. However, the Indians seemed to struggle with the ball and failed to make the simple passes.
In their quest to quickly transition from defence to attack, they ended up losing the ball far too often and looked like a pale shadow of the side that won hearts aplenty in the first two games.
The Indians had endured a long journey to rub shoulders with Asia’s best. Unfortunately for them, the journey ends here.