January 6, 2019; the date will from now always be remembered as a historic day for Indian football and the Indian national team!
Why? Simply because the Blue Tigers deservingly trashed Thailand 4-1 in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup – Group A opener at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi infront of 3,250 fans.
A win which was mostly never in doubt because of a clinical India in the first session and then something happened after which in the second session India exploded into an attacking might for which Thailand had no answer. I for one have never seen an Indian national football team play and dominate a good quality Asian side like this.
And yes, I was one of those lucky 3,250 people as long as they were Indian at the ground to witness history and I’ve seen my fair share of matches of Team India around the world over the last three plus decades, one of the few I’d add then be it India, the Middle East, Europe or the Caribbean, I have had the pleasure of watching numerous India teams.
But again coming to the impact the win has had, here in Abu Dhabi and at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, India is one of the talking points after day two of the competition and now hosts United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will have massive respect facing India.
Soooooo happy that I was there to witness the game.
— Arunava Chaudhuri (@Arunfoot) January 6, 2019
And it was a team performance. Surely Sunil Chhetri led from the front by scoring two goals, a penalty and an exquisite second, Anirudh Thapa announced his arrival on the Asian stage and Jeje Lalpekhlua stepped up when needed, while all the 14 boys who played showed grit, determination, and a quality of football which we have rarely seen from the Blue Tigers.
And I also have to honestly say, Big Respect for Stephen Constantine and his coaching staff! I also have been critical of him in the recent past, but playing Ashique Kuruniyan was the masterstroke on the day as the youngster played impressively while at the back India was difficult to break down as shown against China and Oman recently.
Interestingly the win was India’s only third AFC Asian Cup win from 11 overall matches, the first in 54 plus years since June 2, 1964 when India had won 3-1 over Hong Kong with the only other victory having been a 2-0 win over South Korea on May 27, 1964.
The numbers and impact hopefully will be massive and help in the growth of Indian football.
But the job isn’t done yet. As gready as I am for positive results by Team India, I first want us to qualify for the knockout stages and now also aim to win Group A. Its all possible, if we can replicate the performance against Thailand.