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AFC Asian Cup 2019: How can India pull off the Thailand coup in their opening clash

FEATURED WRITER
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906   //    06 Jan 2019, 10:01 IST

All eyes on Sunil Chhetri as India take on Thailand in their first match of the 201 AFC Asian Cup
All eyes on Sunil Chhetri as India take on Thailand in their first match of the 201 AFC Asian Cup

India are playing the AFC Asian Cup after a span of eight long years. The Blue Tigers will be looking to overcome their nightmarish performance the last time they played in the Asian Cup in 2011. This team is much younger than the team that played the Asian Cup eight years ago. Stephen Constantine believes that the exuberant of youth should enable his side to better their performance as compared to the previous editions. 

India last won a game in the Asian Cup in the 1964 edition and the British coach believes that that particular statistic is going to change in this edition.

India's opponents tomorrow, Thailand, are playing the Asian Cup after a span of 12 years. Thailand are coming into the tournament after failing to meet their expectation in the AFC Suzuki Cup, and they would want to past behind them and look to start anew in the AFC Asian Cup. The opportunity for India to beat Thailand and get their first win in the AFC Asian Cup after 1964 is very high. India though need to change their game a bit if they are to pull off this historic feat. 

Stephen Constantine likes to play a steady defensive game and puts a lot of emphases in keeping his defence in shape. Most attacks that India instigate are through long balls forward or through the wings. India needs to change their style of play against Thailand if they are to overcome the Thai challenge. 

Anirudh Thapa and Pronoy Halder look to be the leading men starting in central midfield, and they would have a lot to do tomorrow if India want to win against Thailand. While Pronoy will be the man acting as the screen in front of the defence, Thapa needs to take more responsibility while going ahead and play a more attacking brand of football. A lot will depend on the wingers Udanta and Halicharan who will have to use their pace to stretch the Thai defence and create space for the likes of Jeje and Sunil Chhetri to run into. 

The Indian defenders will have their hands full as the Thailand attackers keep changing their positions often. Defending against a team whose attackers keep changing places is a daunting task, and the Indian defence would have to be at their A game if they are to overcome Thailand. Man marking usually doesn't work well with teams that keep changing positions so a mixture of Zonal and man marking should be implemented. 

A lot will depend on the way India approaches the game tomorrow, and they should go for the kill rather than let Thailand play their game and wait to go on the counter. India also have a better physical presence compared to Thailand, and they could try and impose their physicality against Thailand. Set pieces are another thing that should be appropriately used by India as they have the required height advantage to dominate the dead ball situations. 

One thing that Thailand are much better at than India is the way they move around the ball and it would be entirely suicidal for India if they allow Thailand to move the ball around and have possession. 

The Indian midfielders should be extra Vigilant in not giving away possession easily and try to win back possession as quickly as possible. Halicharan and Udanta have to use the wings intelligently and not waste the chances they get to put in crosses. 

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Chhetri has been the flagbearer of Indian football for ages now, and every team would put extra emphasis on him so it would be up to Jeje to cast his spell across the Thailand defence while they are busy marking Chhetri. 

One thing that this India team has that the previous squads lacked is pace, and that is one thing if used correctly could really be a big weapon for India.

India can also use their substitutes to great impact with the likes of Jackichand Singh and Ashique having tremendous speed. Fresh legs in the latter part of the game could be a real game changer and if used correctly could really impact the result of tomorrows tie. 

India need to work as a unit while playing with the ball and also when playing without the ball. Smooth transition from defence to attack also holds the key while playing against sides like Thailand. 

Stephen Constantine and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu during the press conference
Stephen Constantine and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu during the press conference

The British coach mentioned that when he started four years ago, the aim was not to lose a game by a significant margin. Now, the objective is to win every game they play. 

India have the second youngest team in the Asian Cup after Vietnam, and the Indian coach will be hoping that the young legs come in handy during the tournament. 

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri are the only two players from the current squad who were a part of the previous Asian Cup squad, and only Chhetri played in the Asian Cup before this edition. Gurpreet feels that the main difference from this team as compared to the previous editions team is the will to win the game and also the age. He feels the mentality has had an enormous paradigm shift. This shift in mentality will be vital for India if they are to pull off something during the Asian Cup. 

The compactness in defence and ability to frustrate the opponents will be critical factors for India during the Asian Cup. 

Thailand camp sounded very respectful regarding their opponents tomorrow India and felt that India had progressed a lot in the last few years. 

The Brit mentioned that he always looked at both aspects of a player when deciding to select a player, and that is what they do with the ball and off the ball. "I can't control what the players do when they are not with me. There are certain things that I would want them to do, but then it's up to the club coaches to decide what they do," he said regarding the poor season that some of his key players are having in the domestic season. 

With the aim of qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament, India need to play a more attacking game rather than sitting back and defending.

It is India's golden chance to pull off the Thailand coup, and with Bahrain playing out a draw against hosts UAE, the group is wide open for the taking. India have the chance to take the game and get into pole position in the group.

While it is billed as the last occasion for the golden generation of Thailand to do something big finally, it is just the beginning of the Indian dream in world football. While India is confident of getting a positive result against Thailand, it also cautious of the threat that the Thai side possess. 

It will be an exciting game tomorrow at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and it will be interesting to see if the experience of Thailand or the exuberance of youth of India triumph. 

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