Carlos Queiroz, one of the most decorated managers in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, lavished huge praise on the Blue Tigers after their emphatic 4-1 victory over Thailand in their tournament opener.
A brace by Sunil Chhetri and one each apiece by Anirudh Thapa and substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua saw the Blue Tigers surge to the top of Group A.
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Queiroz, the Portuguese coach who has been the longest-serving coach for the Iranian National Team, felt India have improved tremendously over the last couple of years. "It is a completely different team since we played them. I saw you guys playing recently. The India Team has made great progress," he said.
Queiroz was referring to the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifiers when Team Melli registered two comfortable victories (3-0 in Bengaluru and 4-0 in Tehran) over the Blue Tigers to cement their berth in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, as well as progress to the next round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
"It is a brilliant win and a very good performance. I would like to congratulate not only coach Constantine but the entire team and the supporters. It has been a fantastic result for the team,” he added.
"When you perform like this in the first game of the Asian Cup, it only shows that you are going in the right direction."
The 23-player India squad which comprises of not less than nine U-23 players is the second youngest team in this edition of AFC Asian Cup after Vietnam.
The Portuguese coach who has guided three different countries (South Africa in 2002, Portugal in 2010, Iran in 2014 and 2018) to FIFA World Cup opined: "I think it's the right thing to do. When we need to prepare the team for the future, you can't do it without the fresh pair of legs.
"If you are trying to take the National Team forward, you need to think about the present, as well as take care of the future. If you don't do that you only get stagnated."
India next play hosts UAE at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on January 10 at 9.30 pm IST.