AFC Asian Cup 2019: "It was a collective effort to win the opening game," says Pronay Halder
India faced off against Thailand in their opening game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. India is playing the AFC Asian Cup after eight long years while their counterparts Thailand are featuring in the premier Asian competition after 12 years.
India broke a 54-year-old dry spell in the Asian Cup after defeating Thailand 4-1 in the opening game. No one had even dreamt of the scoreline by which India defeated Thailand.
India had taken the early lead, but Thailand did equalize before the half time whistle and controlled the game in the first half. The second half was a one-sided affair with India scoring three goals in the second period of the game to register its most significant victory (regarding goals) in Asian Cup history.
Sunil Chhetri scored early on the second half to give India the edge while Anirudh Thapa and Jeje scored to provide the icing on the cake.
In the first half, the Thai midfielders were the ones who were running the show, but in the second half, the duo of Anirudh Thapa and Pronay Halder were absolutely brilliant.
Pronay did most of the dirty work in the middle of the park, while Anirudh was always available as cover whenever needed. Jeje Lalpekhlua finally ended his barren spell and scored with his first touch against Thailand. It was a dream start for India in the Asian Cup.
Sportskeeda caught up with Pronay Halder, Jeje Lalpekhlua, and Anirudh Thapa after the game.
Q: What was said at half time that the team played such a brand of football in the second half?
Pronay: Well yes the first half didn't go according to plan, but we came to know the way the Thailand players were playing, so we planned accordingly in the second half, and everything worked for us.
But, I must thank Sunil Bhai (Sunil Chhetri) for scoring so early on the in the second half. That goal really gave us the boost and confidence to play our game in the second half.
Also, the whole team played their hearts out. It was a combined team effort, and everyone deserves credit for the victory.
Q: Did the team feel it could have pulled off such a victory by this margin?
Pronay: (Laughs) We always believed that we could win the game, but I didn't think that we could have won such a significant margin.
Q: A brilliant start to the tournament, a win for India after 55 years. How's the mood in the dressing room?
Pronay: Yes it is just the start we wanted, but we can't just rely on this victory, we play UAE next, and that will be a tough game, so everyone is focused regarding the next game.
Q: Anirudh, what did the coach exactly tell you guys during the half time break?
Anirudh: In the first half we weren't able to read their game. During the half time break, the coach showed us their tactics, and we planned accordingly, and all went well.
Q: Being the youngest member in the squad playing your first Asian Cup game and getting a goal, how is the feeling?
Anirudh: Absolutely thrilled man. It was an excellent game, and I am happy to be able to score the game. Special thanks to Sunil Bhai who made that move possible with the pass to Udanta. I would also like to thank Pronay bhai. He was excellent in the midfield today.
Q: What is the aim of this Indian team in the Asian Cup?
Anirudh: Well we are taking it one game at a time right now focused on the UAE game.
Q: Jeje, you have had a poor domestic season so far but scored with nearly your first touch in the Asian Cup, what are your thoughts regarding that?
Jeje: See I am a striker and strikers have dry patches. It's true I haven't been able to score in the ISL this season, but I have been working very hard and am happy to be able to score against Thailand.
Strikers will always be under pressure to score so we need to keep working hard. I am happy to have scored in the first game of 2019 and hopefully will score more in the coming games.