It was one of the most difficult days that this young Indian team had to endure at the AFC Asian Cup 2019. They had done almost everything right against the hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their second Group A game. They dominated the opponents, controlled the tempo and created enough chances, but just couldn’t get the ball to cross the goal line. While skipper Sunil Chhetri admitted it was a much-needed lesson for his boys, one man who put in a tremendous shift that night was expectedly sad.
“We were disappointed,” says Indian left-back Subhasish Bose, who was a constant threat in both attack and defence in that game. “We played a very good game, much better than the Thailand match. But we conceded. We made five chances but just couldn’t convert. After the game coach said we have one more game left and we must win it. We need to take the good momentum into the next match.”
And that's exactly what the Indian team will be hoping for when they take on Bahrain in their final group game at the Sharjah stadium on January 14. “We have set our minds on that. We have to win the game (against Bahrain). We have to concentrate on the next game, give 100 per cent physically and need to play good football. We have to concentrate on reaching the Round of 16 and have to be there,” says Bose when asked about the mood in the camp after another high-intensity training at the facility here in Sharjah.
As the situation stands, a draw should be enough for India to make it to the knock-outs since the format was introduced. And though many believe that this new-look India side has it in them to make it through, Bose doesn’t want to be affected by the pressure that such expectations bring along. “We have a little pressure, I won’t deny that. But we aren’t thinking about it. The coach has given us a lot of confidence and told us to play with our heart and free spirit. And that’s what we intend to do,” he says.
Up against another West Asian country in Bahrain, the challenges thrown at India wouldn’t be much different from what we saw when they lined-up against the UAE. And the 23-year-old sounds confident of his side doing well. “They good with the ball also strong in the air. That’s something we need to be mindful of. But with our speedy wingers and strikers, I think we can trouble their backline too. They (Bahrain) have drawn one and lost one, so it’s clear that even they will be looking for a win. It's a difficult match, but we are ready for the challenge. If we can play to the best of our abilities, we can get the job done, and that’s what we are looking forward to.”