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"India's 2019 AFC Triumph: Surprising Thailand!"

Asia Cup 2019

AFC Asian Cup is the premier International competition in Asia, just the identical opposite of the UEFA Euro. It takes place after every 4 years just like any other premier International competition in the world. Due to covid & China's pulling out as hosts, the 2023 edition has been postponed to January 2024 in Qatar. The fixtures will be played in the same venues built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar is also the defending champion which they won back in 2019.

India in football is a country that has a rich history but despite having such a background couldn't build on that to become a top football nation. Rather due to ignorance from the government, corruption within the federation & structural inefficiencies over time football became one of the least popular sports in the country. The quality and level of football hit the lowest for several decades after the 1970s.

In this premier competition, India last participated in 1984 on merit before 2019. In 2011 India also got into the competition but out of pure luck as one of the teams had withdrawn. But 2019 was the year when it looked like India deserved the spot and the team also proved it under head coach Stephen Constantine.

Build Up To 2019 :

Stephen Constantitne's philosophy is pragmatic & he doesn't believe in attractive football. According to him in football what ultimately matters is the result. He is more of a Jose Mourinho kind. He took charge of India in 2015 when the country was at its lowest at 174th rank in FIFA. The Indian team playing football was just unbearable to watch before that. Constantine didn't bring in attractive build-up football like present coach Igor Stimac, but he changed the atmosphere of the dressing room within a short time period.

He understood the Indian players and made the play football the way those players were comfortable, i.e. relying mostly on the long ball. He could build a well-gelled team within a short time and finalize his probable 2019 Asian Cup squad within 2017. His squad went on to achieve some big feats such as a 12-match unbeaten streak or a drawing against a much stronger China in 2018. At the end of his stint, he brought India up to 98 FIFA ranking from 174 within 4 years. It was during his time fans again started to reconnect with Indian football very slowly.

Asia Cup 2019 :

Then came the Asia Cup which India had deservedly earned. India was grouped against Thailand, UAE, and Bahrain, all mutch strong sides compared to India. Yet in the 1st match, India thrashed Thailand 4-1 which stunned the other participating teams and coaches. It was a display of perfectly coordinated counterattacks against a dominant Thailand.

Against UAE, India threatened from the start in the same way and hit the post twice. If India could have scored on those two occasions it might have changed India's fate in a top competition after many decades. But the day was to with the Blue Tigers as a better UAE side scored at the end of each half to seal a 2-0 victory against India.

Probably the UAE game broke the spirit of India as the underdog story was left incomplete. A dejected India lost against Bahrain after conceding one goal at 90+1 min by through a penalty. Yet India was not thrashed as many would have expected before going into the competition. On the contrary many coaches and fans of other participating teams had praised India's high-spirited performance.

It was a tournament on which India built its football and fanbase to a better level and the expectation is more people would connect with the sport, with the national team, will show support, give opinions and criticize Indian football.



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