The 2019 AFC Asian Cup was expected to be an eye-opener for the Indian team. And looking at the way things have panned out so far, it has been nothing short of that, but not in a way most would have expected.
The team coached by Stephen Constantine has surprised many with their fast-paced and high-intensity approach against Thailand and the hosts the United Arab Emirates. Unlike in the past when the Indian side would choose to sit deep and let their superior opponents dictate terms, this India side has been bold and have taken the attack to their opponents in each of their two games.
In the opener, while the Indians took their time to read the Thai’s approach and then imposed a high press game to break their momentum to create moves of their own, against the UAE they were on the money from the very first minute, creating chances and getting past the Emirati backline too often than not.
Another aspect that stood out in the two games so far is the fitness levels of the players. The players cover an average of 10-12 km every game, which includes high intensity running, the sharp change in directions, quick acceleration and deacceleration and so on. Keeping a tab on these numbers and making sense of it for the coach is sports scientist Danny Deigan’s job.
The Aussie is with the side as the Strength & Conditioning coach and is focused on ensuring the team stays fresh as matches approach thick at fast. “Yeah, obviously it’s a little different from what they normally do with their clubs,” says Danny clarifying doubts on how fit is this team for their third game in less than 10 days.
“But we’ve focused on this in our training, and so we know what they are going to perform roughly in a game physically, and we get multiple amounts of this in a week. We’ve pretty much simulated physically what an Asian Cup looks like, so the players know what to expect this third game.”
Danny has been one of the key factors behind the team increased fitness levels. But not always does a fit team produce desired results. Ask Danny for a correlation between the two, he believes it’s a much-needed ingredient in a making of a competitive team. “Fitness levels doesn’t directly reflect performance. I think in women’s football, there’s a correlation between performance and output,” he says.
“But football is so complex – there are so many different areas coming in — tactics, technique, taking your chances – so it doesn’t directly correlate, but it can give an indication of where players can best be used tactically. It can give us an indication of what we need to do around training to make sure they are physically at their best to perform in their next game.”