The Indian Football Team’s fairy tale run at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 ended in tears despite being in contention to reach the knockout stage till the dying moments of the game.
The team crashed out of the tournament after conceding a penalty in extra time while having successfully held a resolute Bahrain side to a goalless draw.
The tactics of the Indian team was questioned by many as coach Stephen Constantine looked to park the bus from the start of the game, which led to very few attacking transitions by the team.
This was inspired by the fact that India needed just a draw to progress to the next stage.
Indians suffered a blow in the first few moments of the game after central defender Anas Edathodika had to be subbed-off due to an injury.
Despite all odds the tactic of trying to keep Bahrain appeared to be working thanks to the heroic performance of defender Sandesh Jhingan and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, with the latter pulling off some spectacular saves in the second half.
Jhingan was everywhere whether it was making last-ditch tackles or bullying the opposition strikers by winning aerial tackles.
The side overall kept Bahrain’s attack at bay by solid defending despite the continuous barrage of attacks from the opposition who dominated possession for most of the game. Bahrain’s ace striker Mohamed Saad Alromaihi also remained mostly inconspicuous throughout the game thanks to Jhingan.
In the dying moments India really struggled to keep possession by repeatedly giving the ball away. Those mistakes turned out to be one to many and India was punished with a conceded penalty.
Despite conceding it, captain Pronay Halder throughout the game led from the front and fought hard to win the battle in the midfield, and with Udanta being constricted, most of India’s attacking flow came through him.
Regardless of the heartbreak, fans hope that the team’s performance in the tournament would spark them to perform better in future tournaments as they have gained some valuable experience.
In the post match interview, Coach Stephen Constantine, whose contract was up for renewal post the AFC Asian Cup, decided to announce his resignation, fulfilling the demand of many fans who wanted him sacked.
Constantine remains a divisive figure among fans, who even though oversaw India’s rise in the FIFA rankings from 173 to 97, failed to evolve from a long-ball style of play, widely considered unsuitable for the team.
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