Bengaluru, January 6: India are back among the continent’s elite after eight years and will look to remind everyone that they can measure up to the challenge as they open their much-awaited AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign against Thailand at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday (January 6).
Difficult challenges, though, await Stephen Constantine's team in Group A where they are drawn alongside Thailand, Bahrain and hosts UAE.
Sunday’s opponents, Thailand, are in red-hot goalscoring form and the Blue Tigers will be required to keep things tight at the back with the focus on goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and the defence led by Sandesh Jhingan.
Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das are trusted servants to guard the flanks and in front of them would be the likes of Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary or Ashique Kuruniyan. Anirudh Thapa and Pronay Halder have formed a solid partnership in the double pivot for India and their output will be crucial against a Thailand side who likes to keep the ball and punish their opponents with quick transitions.
For India, Sunil Chhetri will once again be the go-to forward but the national team's all-time top scorer will be up against a defence that has kept nine clean sheets in 20 matches. However, Thailand's recent debacles, including a loss against Oman in a friendly, will boost India's confidence ahead of the crucial showdown.
Here are the Live Updates of India’s opener against Thailand:
What a match it has been!! India walk away with their heads held high and full of confidence! The Men in Blue have gotten their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign off to the perfect start with a thumping 4-1 win over Thailand!
3 minutes of added time!! The Indians are enjoying this game while Thailand look a bit confounded!
Constantine makes another change: Pranoy Halder - who's been immense in this second half - walks off to applause as Germanpreet Singh jogs on in.
India 4 - Thailand 1
80' GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!!! THE MIZO SNIPER IS BACK!!! Halicharan plays it in to @jejefanai, who leathers it into the top corner!— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) January 6, 2019
🇹🇭 1-4 🇮🇳#BackTheBlue #AsianDream #BlueTigers #IndianFootball #THAIND
81' GOOOAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! Jeje on strike this time!! India cruising to win now in Abu Dhabi!
77' Jeje Lalpekhlua comes on for Ashique Kuruniyan. Constantine makes another sub as the equally superb Anirudh Thapa is taken off for Rowllin Borges.
The youngest player in the team gets his name on the scoresheet! India lead 3-1!
68' GGOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! @chetrisunil11 plays @UdantaK through, he advances into the box, turns and passes to @AnirudhThapa, who dinks it over the keeper.— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) January 6, 2019
🇹🇭 1-3 🇮🇳#BackTheBlue #AsianDream #BlueTigers #IndianFootball #THAIND
GOOOAALLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! Anirudh Thapa gets on the scoresheet as India increase their lead to 3-1!
GOAALLLLLLLL!!! India gets the desired start in the second half! Leads 2-1 Udanta soars down the right flank, crosses towards ashique who leaves it for Chhetri who smacks it into the top corner!
Halftime! India 1 - Thailand 1 India’s opening encounter of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 is evenly poised at halftime. After Chhetri put India ahead in the 27th minute, Thailand recovered quickly as Dangda levelled the scores to make it 1-1. The game has seen a flurry of chances and promises a thrilling second half!
42' With just minutes to go for half-time, Thailand have had 7 shots on goal so far, while India have had only 3.
38’ Yellow Card: First yellow awarded to Thailand’s Dechmitr as he slams into Anirudh Thapa
33' India 1 - Thailand 1 Thailand draws level! Dangda makes no mistake from six yards as he glides it in to hand Thailand the equaliser!
INDIA LEAD 1-0!! Hats off to CHHETRI! From 12 yards out Sunil Chhetri hands India the lead. Chhetri makes it 66 international goals as he took his time and then smashed home the penalty to hand India the lead!!
25' PENALTY TO INDIA. India awarded penalty and have been handed their big moment of the 2019 Asian AFC Cup
20’ Free-kick to Thailand. It’s dangerous and it’s just gone wide! Could have easily been an own goal for India. Dangerously close. Corner. But India survive scare
14’ Sunil Chhetri receives the ball from Bose on the turn and earns a free-kick from close range. Free-kick for India: Thapa swings it towards Jhingan but the Thai defend holds strong
11’ India 0 - Thailand 0 SOO CLOSE!! Kraisorn tees up Puangchan.He let’s it fly from 25 meters out…. Just over skipper Sandhu’s crossbar! Too close for comfort for the Indian team Thailand come dangerously close to scoring the opening goal in the 11th minute!
4' India 0 - 0 Thailand Solid start from India! Anas powers the Blues forward with a beautiful ball out wide to Kuruniyan. Keeps it simple this time but its just behind Chhetri’s run. The Thai’s look rusty as there’s some panicky defending.
While India warm up, the first match of the day turned up a shocking result as defending champions Australia began in miserable fashion as they slumped to a shock 1-0 loss to Jordan in Al Ain on Sunday.
While many wonder why Stephen Constantine has not picked Sunil Chhetri as the leader for the opening tie, the fans are unwavering in their support for Chhetri as they predict a couple of goals from the striker!
With the starting XI announced the big news from the Indian team is that the captain of the Indian team is not Sunil Chhetri but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for India's opening match of the AFC Asian Cup.
Just under half an hour for kick-off: Milovan Rajevac and Stephen Constantine announce their starting XIs ahead of their Asian Cup 2019 group A clash:
The Blue Pilgrims are all set to back the Men in Blue.
It's Matchday!@IndianFootball Team is pumped up to face Thailand Football Team in their opening encounter.#BackTheBlue #AsianDream #AFCAsianCup #BlueTigers #InquilabEIndianFootball pic.twitter.com/j0zkXAxsbi— Blue Pilgrims (@BluePilgrims) January 5, 2019
Just under two hours to go for the much-awaited kick-off at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, where India will face Thailand in their opening encounter of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.