Indian Football Round-up: 5 Things to watch out for in 2019
The year 2018 was an eventful one for Indian football fans. While the senior team won the Intercontinental Cup and held Asian giants China and Oman to a 0-0 draw, Bibiano Fernandes and his U-16 boys came agonizingly close to qualifying for the 2019 U-17 World Cup.
There were a lot of negatives in the leap year as well. Gourav Mukhi's age fiasco became a matter of farce throughout the world and Star Sports' death sentence to I-League drew sharp criticism from every nook and corner.
#5 2019 AFC Asian Cup
India will be making their fourth appearance in the AFC Asian Cup in UAE after missing out on the previous edition. The Blue Tigers will kick-start their campaign against Thailand on 6th January, followed by the hosts UAE on 10th January, and Bahrain on 14th January. Even if India finishes third in their group, they can progress to the knockouts as four out of six third-placed teams will make it to the final 16.
The onus will be on Sunil Chhetri and his comrades to ensure India has a respectable campaign. In the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, India lost all their three matches with a margin of three goals or more. However, they are placed in a relatively easier group this year, and should at least not have a disastrous sojourn.
This tournament will be the litmus test for Stephen Constantine, who is under immense pressure to guide the national team at least to the knockouts of the tournament. The Englishman has overlooked a lot of deserving players and selected players who are not enjoying the best of form in the squad.
If Constantine's tactics prevail in the continental extravaganza, he should be handed a contract extension with a hefty paycheck. Otherwise, AIFF will have no issue in parting ways with him.