On the cusp of history, Indians out to exact revenge against Bahrain
January 14, 2011 saw India slump to a 5-2 loss against Bahrain and exit the AFC Asian Cup after failing to register a single win. Indian football has come a long way since and eight years to the day, the side has a chance to erase the painful memories and re-write history when the two sides face-off in their final group stage match here.
The Blue Tigers have three points, while Bahrain has managed to amass only one point from two games. Monday night’s clash at the Sharjah Football Stadium will be one of the most important games of coach Stephen Constantine’s career.
A win, or even a draw, will see India progress to the knockout stage of the continental showpiece for the first time, making it the team’s biggest achievement on the global scale.
India has had a fairly impressive run at the tournament thus far and has played a more enterprising brand of football as compared to its opponents. The team has looked sharp up front and has managed to create plenty of goal-scoring chances, though its finishing needs a little improving. The defence has looked susceptible to aerial deliveries but on the whole, it has been pretty tight at the back.
“Bahrain is a good team, they’re very well organised and have some quality players. We expect a tough game. I’m sure they’re going to try and attack us, but we’re prepared for that,” said Constantine on the eve of the game.
Bahrain will head into the match with the sole aim of claiming all three points if it is to remain in the competition. Constantine acknowledges that this will ensure a thrilling contest. “The more you have to fight for, the more you have to lose and the harder you have to try. When someone is backed into a corner, he has nothing to lose. They have to win, a draw will do nothing for them,” he said.
The Englishman made history by guiding India to the Asian Cup after eight years and is now keen on making history once again on Monday. “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 again tomorrow and that’s what we want to do,” he said.
India’s top-scorer Sunil Chhetri is the only player in the current side who had played on 2011 and incidentally, Chhetri had bagged a goal in the 2011 game against Bahrain. “We haven’t achieved anything substantial yet. What I want to achieve is to reach the top-10 in Asia and rub shoulders with the best. For that, we have to improve a lot. The first step starts with a result against Bahrain tomorrow,” he said.