Constantine not getting carried away by India win

Abu Dhabi: Head coach Stephen Constantine has refused to get carried away following India’s sensational 4-1 win over Thailand at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Sunday.
Sunil Chhetri’s brace, along with goals from Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua, sealed the South Asian side’s first win in the competition’s Finals since 1964 and saw them roar to the top of the Group A standings.
However, although clearly pleased with the impressive victory, Constantine remains adamant that his charges still have plenty of work to do if they are to qualify for the knockout phase.
“I am obviously delighted with the performance. I thought the boys fought for all the game and we are very happy to get India’s first win at the AFC Asian Cup for many years,” explained the Englishman, who is in his second spell with the Indian national team.
“I think it was an evenly matched first half. At half-time we made a few small adjustments because we were giving the ball away too much. It then really helped when we got the early goal [in the second period] as Thailand were on the back foot after that.”
“We just try to win every game we play, and I think we have done very well over the last few years. We are not getting carried away though. Of course, we want to qualify, and I think we need another two points to do that.
“We have had some fantastic results in recent years, but I am not going to single this result out from the others we have had, although I am very happy.”
Next up for the Blue Tigers is a potentially crucial clash with host nation the United Arab Emirates at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
While the prospect of facing the Emiratis is one that excites Constantine, the 56-year-old tactician — with progress to the next phase in his sights — is determined to treat the game as he would any other.
“We are in the AFC Asian Cup and that is a big deal, but we have two more games,” he said.
“The whole Asian Cup [experience] excites me. We played some 18 games to qualify and we have been excited about the prospect of playing all three teams in our group.
“Of course, we are looking forward to playing the UAE, but they are only another team who are standing in our way.”
Meanwhile, opposite number Milovan Rajevac – speaking just hours before his subsequent dismissal by the Football Association of Thailand – was quick to praise India following Thailand’s defeat, adding that his side’s opponents thoroughly deserved to take all three points.
“For us, the first half was mostly okay, even though we conceded the opening goal after a corner of our own. In the second period, India were more aggressive, and they clearly wanted the victory. They absolutely deserved to win the match as we underperformed after the break,” remarked the one-time Qatar head coach.
“At the start of the second half we conceded an early goal which forced us to open up a little as we tried to find an equaliser. The real problem for us was that we did not have a response to India’s aggressive style of play.”
Thailand next play Bahrain in Dubai on Thursday.