Stephen Constantine: India exceeded expectations, unlucky to be knocked out

The outgoing India national football team's manager felt that the Blue Tigers didn't deserve to lose against Bahrain and says the team didn't play for a draw.

Stephen Constantine couldn't take India to the knockout stages of Asian Cup 2019.   -  Reuters

After four eventful years that saw him make many a record and guide India to the the AFC Asian Cup, Stephen Constantine has announced that he has stepped down as head coach after the side's heart-breaking loss against Bahrain on Monday.  

“There's nobody in this room besides myself who that thought we could do this [qualify for Asian Cup] when we first played in Guwahati against Nepal in the pre-qualifiers,” he added. 

Constantine rued his side's luck and felt his team had definitely exceeded expectations. “I don't think we deserved it [the loss]. We came here to qualify from the group and the boys gave everything. Overall, [ we did] more than what people expected but I'm pretty sure no one expected us to qualify for the Asian Cup in 2015. The boys have exceeded expectations. We were unlucky to not score 3-4 goals against UAE and today we were unlucky that we could not hold out for another 3-4 minutes.”

Despite India having zero shots on target, he maintained that his side didn't intend on playing for a draw. “We didn't intentionally set out for a draw. Bahrain started with a lot of energy and was looking to get the early goal. We lacked a little bit experience and I think as the 75th minute came, the boys were thinking they could hold on for another 15 minutes. Bahrain were playing with six forwards and four in midfield, so it was tough. But as I said at the beginning of the game, we didn’t come here to play for a draw. They started defending deeper and in the end, we got punished. I thought we defended well for 90-odd minutes and to get beat by a penalty is harsh.”

When asked if this was the saddest day of his managerial career, he said: “I don't think it the saddest day, it's not a great day if I'm honest. It's my wife's birthday, so she's going to be pretty upset. These things happen in football, sometimes you don't get what you deserve. I don't think we did enough to win the game and obviously, I'm sad to be leaving the players and the boys, every single one of them has been fantastic for me, even the guys who didn't make the final squad.” 

Fighting back tears, he said he was looking forward to spending time with his family. “It's time to move on. I haven't lived in my own house for 6 years. I see my daughters, three of them, every 3-4 months and um (breaks down).”

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