AFC Asian Cup: On the cusp of history, India out to exact revenge against Bahrain

A win, or even a draw, will see India progress to the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, making it the team's biggest achievement on the global scale.

India's top-scorer Sunil Chhetri is the only surviving member of the team that played Bahrain in 2011.   -  Reuters

The fourteenth of January in 2011 saw India slump to a 5-2 loss against Bahrain and exit the AFC Asian Cup after failing to register a single win. Indian football has come a long way since and eight years to the day, the side now has a chance to erase the painful memories and re-write history when the two sides face-off in their final group stage match at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

The Blue Tigers have three points to their name after a 4-1 pummelling of Thailand in the opening game, which was followed by a deflating 2-0 loss to the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain, on the other hand, has had a mediocre campaign. After a 1-1 draw with UAE and a 1-0 loss to Thailand, it has managed to amass only one point.

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Monday night's clash at the Sharjah Football Stadium will be one of the most important games of coach Stephen Constantine's career. A win, or even a draw, will see India progress to the knockout stage of the continental showpiece for the first time, making it the team's biggest achievement on the global scale.

India has had a fairly impressive run at the tournament thus far and has played a more enterprising brand of football as compared to its opponents. The team has looked sharp up front and has managed to create plenty of goal-scoring chances, though its finishing needs a little improving. The defence has looked susceptible to aerial deliveries but on the whole, it has been pretty tight at the back.

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“Bahrain is a good team, they're very well organised and have some quality players. We expect a tough game. I’m sure they’re going to try and attack us, but we’re prepared for that,” said Constantine on the eve of the game.

According to Constantine, Bahrain's need for all three points to remain in the competition will ensure a thrilling contest tomorrow. “The more you have to fight for, the more you have to lose and the harder you have to try. When someone is backed into a corner, he has nothing to lose. They have to win, a draw will do nothing for them,” he said.

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The Englishman made history by guiding India to the Asian Cup after eight years and is now keen on making history once again on Monday. “I’m absolutely over the moon that we qualified. India deserves to be here and now we're one step away from qualifying for the last 16 which will be massive for Indian football as a whole. It will be a huge opportunity for us to make history again tomorrow and that’s what we want to do,” he said. 

India's top-scorer Sunil Chhetri is the only surviving member of the team that played Bahrain in 2011 and incidentally, Chhetri had bagged a goal in that game. “We haven’t achieved anything substantial yet. What I want to achieve is to reach the top-10 in Asia and rub shoulders with the best. For that, we have to improve a lot. The first step starts with a result against Bahrain tomorrow,” he said.

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