#AFCAsianCup2019 Preview – Group A: Thailand v India

Stephen Constantine - India - AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

Abu Dhabi: Both India and Thailand are confident of taking all three points when they meet in their AFC Asian Cup Group A opener at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The two teams are making a welcome return to the Continental showpiece, with India last appearing in 2011 and Thailand four years earlier.

Drawn in a group that also includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, a win for either India and Thailand will go a long way to boosting their hopes of advancing to the Round of 16, a fact not lost on the head coaches of both teams, who also accept that the opener is going to be far from easy.

“We are, obviously, expecting a tough game. Thailand are a very good side,” said India’s Stephen Constantine.

“However, we think we have prepared very well for Thailand and on Sunday we will find out. I don’t think we are under pressure. What we do have is the pressure to win, which is every time as we want to win for India.”

Constantine, who has been at the helm for four years, will guide the second youngest squad at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Since returning as head coach for a second stint, India have improved tremendously and enjoyed a relatively smooth journey in qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

“What has changed in the four years is our mentality. If before, it was to not lose by many goals, now it is to win. The work rate has also increased. In fact, the reason why we are here is because of the work rate and unity.”

The Englishman’s assertion was shared by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who will make his second appearance in the AFC Asian Cup.

“We are feeling really motivated. Playing for the country is always special, we have worked very hard to be here and we are a difficult team to play against,” said Gurpreet.

“What we have done over the four years is work really hard, as the coach said, and we give everything when we step onto the pitch.”

With Constantine saying his injury-free squad are fully aware of what the Thais have to offer, counterpart Milovan Rajevac has declared that his team will head into the tie fully prepared.

“The first match is always very important, especially in a big tournament. We respect India, they have improved over the last few years but we have prepared very well,” said Rajevac.

“We want a good result and my team has been focusing on that as we will be taking it one match at a time.”

The Thais come into the tournament having being dethroned as champions of Southeast Asia, but Rajevac said that is something which is now well and truly behind them.

“The AFF Cup is behind us. Yes, we lost but we played with a team that was missing several regulars who were playing for clubs abroad. It is a completely different situation now. We have the best players available and we are determined to advance to the next round.”

If they do progress, it will have been from a group where all the other teams are ranked higher than themselves.

“That will motivate us further. We are looking forward to playing not only India but also UAE and Bahrain as we relish our chances of making the knockout stage.

“India have improved greatly over the last few years. Most of their players are now taller, physically stronger and are improving in every way. I also know the India coach and I know that he is always doing brilliant work. I am sure he has improved India with his knowledge and experience.”

Team captain Teerasil Dangda said Thailand are determined to deliver results for their fans.

“They have always supported the national team and with Thailand making the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 12 years, we want it to be a tournament the fans will remember.”

 

Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation Website

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