India are a point away from booking their place in the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in their history, but a desperate Bahrain, who need a win to stay alive in the competition, lie in their path.
Exactly eight years to the day, India played Bahrain in the 2011 Asian Cup and lost 5-2. However, the Blue Tigers would believe that those days of struggling against the Asian big boys are well behind them.
India outplayed Thailand to hand them a 4-1 thrashing in their opening game before falling to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE). India should have at least earned a point given the number of chances they created.
The performance of Stephen Constantine’s men won several admirers despite not being enough to secure any points. On the basis of sheer performance, India have been the best team in the group and have caught the eye of everyone in the UAE.
However, failure to finish the job in the last game has left India in a sticky spot with the Blue Tigers needing a point against Bahrain, who also lost their previous match to Thailand, after making an impressive start in their 1-1 draw against UAE.
The pressure though, is more on Bahrain who will have to force the issue from the get-go. The situation in other group game means India would have a good chance to qualify for the knockout stages even if they lose by the odd goal and Thailand don’t overtake them in the points table.
“India have it much easier than us. It’s of if they lose 1-0 to us. They already have three points but I really hope after Monday’s game, we qualify for the next round,” Bahrain’s Serbian coach Miroslav Soukup told reporters in Sharjah on Monday.
Bahrain have scored just one goal in the tournament so far which came against UAE in the opening game. They are yet to score from open play in the competition and Soukup wants his team to address that in their final game.
“We must always trust our players. Our defenders and strikers are really good. We had a good preparation before this tournament and I want my players to show more courage on the field tomorrow, especially inside the penalty box,” Soukup said. (Source – Firstpost).
The AFC Asian Cup 2019 match between India and Bahrain will be played on January 14, 21:30 hrs (IST). The match will telecast on the Star Sports network and live streaming will be available on Hotstar.