India vs China: Draw bodes well for Blue Tigers ahead of 2019 Asian Cup
India kick-started their preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup in fine fashion, holding China goalless in an international friendly, the first for India on Chinese soil, in Suzhou on Saturday.
The result against Red Dragons, coached by Champions League and World Cup winning manager Marcello Lippi, means more to India than to China.
Placed in a tough Group A at the 2019 Asian Cup featuring hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain, there were question marks over whether India could manage even a draw against China.
ALSO READ: India vs China - as it happened
But as they showed on Saturday, India could have gone on to win the game if only their strikers were more effective in front of the goal.
The performance from the team overall was commendable, considering China are ranked 21 places above India in FIFA Rankings at the 76th position.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu stood tall like a rock at the goal, coming up with a number of acrobatic saves to keep India in the game.
The Indian defence, spearheaded by captain Sandesh Jhingan, could have done better but managed to thwart many chances that came China's way. They were put under pressure a number of times by the Chinese, but came out on top each time.
Indians were lucky a couple of times when Gao Lin struck the frame twice, but the luck was on India's side.
Farukh Choudhary came close to scoring for India in the 93rd minute but the Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junlin made an important block and saved the blushes for the hosts.
The result shows that Indian football is only developing with each passing day. India last qualified for the Asian Cup in 2011 and exited in the group stage itself. They lost all their three games at the Qatar edition of the Asian Cup in 2011. They were first blanked 0-4 by Australia and then lost their way in a 2-5 defeat to Bahrain. Before their exit, they were drubbed 1-4 by South Korea in their last encounter.
After faring poorly in 2011, the Indian national team would surely be gunning to do better this time and going by the display against China, India seem pretty determined to impress at the continental stage.
India have two more friendlies lined up before the Asian Cup in UAE. They will turn out against Jordan in Amman on November 17 and then face Oman on December 27. Their Asian Cup campaign begins against Thailand on January 6, 2019.
Let's hope the good work continues and the 'sleeping giant' of global football awakens finally.