India's Stephen Constantine expects UAE backlash in 'must-win' Asian Cup clash
India manager wary of strong response from tournament hosts in Group A clash in Abu Dhabi on Thursday
India manager Stephen Constantine is expecting a strong response from hosts UAE in Thursday’s Asian Cup clash in Abu Dhabi.
The home side got their Group A account off to a frustrating start last Saturday, when they needed a late penalty at Zayed Sports City Stadium to scrape a 1-1 draw against Bahrain. Since then, manager Alberto Zaccheroni in particular has come in for much criticism.
India, meanwhile, opened their campaign the following day with a surprise 4-1 victory against Thailand, meaning they currently head the group. Victory against the UAE would guarantee a place in the last 16.
However, Constantine anticipates a backlash from Zaccheroni’s side. Asked if Saturday’s disappointment would make the UAE more dangerous, the Englishman replied: “Yes. Absolutely. They didn’t play to the best of their capabilities. They’re a good side.
“They’ll be jacked up to play us, that’s for sure. They will see this as an absolute must-win situation for them. So we’re expecting a very tough game. We have a healthy respect for them, but we are fully prepared. We’ll try to play our game and see if we can get something from it.”
Competing in the Asian Cup for only the fourth time and first since 2011, little was expected of India. The 1964 runners-up endured an arduous route to the tournament, which included a play-off and an extra group stage.
Yet Sunday’s victory against Thailand has raised expectations that India can secure early passage to the knockout stages. So, too, the fact they have recent experience taking on Gulf teams having played Jordan and Oman in friendlies before the tournament. India lost 2-1 and drew 0-0, respectively.
“Oman are the Gulf Cup champions, so drawing with them was an encouraging result. But Jordan and Oman, the similarities with the UAE are there. These were important games - it's why we set them up. We have planned everything down to the last detail.
"We’ve taken the first step against Thailand and we'll have a really tough game tomorrow against the UAE. But we’ll fight like we’ve done for the past four years and we’ll try to get the result that we need."
As to how many points he thought his team would need to advance, Constantine said: “Nine would definitely do it. Six would definitely do it. Four might be enough. But we’re going for the three tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.
“We’re not going for the draw, we're not going to lose. We came here to win. We came to the UAE to make India proud. This was our objective from Day 1. In 2015, when I [was appointed] I told you all that we’d qualify. We’ve done that.
“I said we’d try to get out of the group. We’ve taken the first step to do that. There’s still two very tough games to go, but we’re on the right track. So this is will be the objective.”
Updated: January 10, 2019 08:03 AM