Abu Dhabi, January 5: A day prior to their AFC Asian Cup 2019 opener against Thailand, India's coach Stephen Constantine admitted that he just can't wait for the match to begin.
"The players are really looking forward to the opening match, and so am I. We can't wait for the game to kick-off. It's time for the show," Constantine told AIFF.
"We've a really young team. I wish they perform to their abilities. I'm sure we'll do fine," the Englishman added.
This is the fourth time India are competing at the AFC Asian Cup, the last being the 2011 edition held in Qatar, where they crashed out in the group stage.
India's best-performance was the second-place finish in the 1964 edition held under the round-robin format in Israel.
On the other hand, Thailand's best result in the continental championship came in 1972 when they finished third. Since then, they have failed to advance past the group stage in all the five occasions they competed.
India are in good form in the run up to the tournament, holding mighty Oman to a goalless draw and they also got the better of Thailand three days back in a friendly fixture played behind the closed doors in Abu Dhabi.
#BlueTigers can't wait for the game to kick-off ⚽️ tomorrow against @FAThailand in the @afcasiancup, says @StephenConstan.— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) January 5, 2019
Read the preview ⏩https://t.co/qwOD2eXn6p#BackTheBlue #IndianFootball #AsianDream pic.twitter.com/U1udUe9fFa
But Constantine brushed aside on being asked whether India will have a psychological advantage when the Blue Tigers face the War Elephants. "They are different teams with a different set of players. Oman were trying out different players, and so were Thailand," he said.
"Thailand are a very good side and they are not to be underestimated at all. We're in no position to underestimate anybody. We've to take one game at a time. We'll give everything we have as we've continued to do in the last four years. We'll obviously do our best to get the result that we need," he added.
A lot of travelling fans have already landed in Abu Dhabi to cheer the team. At the same time, a lot of expatriate Indians are also expected to throng the Al Nahyan Stadium.
"We need the support of our Indian friends from Abu Dhabi and all over the UAE. It's not every day you go and see the Indian national team play in the AFC Asian Cup, and now it's at your doorstep. This is a huge event as well as a huge opportunity for the Indians to see their national team play at the highest stage in the continent," he said.
"Personally, it's a proud moment for me to lead India to the AFC Asian Cup. It has been a long difficult road which took more than three years to get here.
AIFF believed in me and allowed me to continue," he added.
"The 1-0 win against the Kyrgyz Republic at home was something special. Apart from that, beating Myanmar in Myanmar after 64 years was a great result for us. It was the opening game of the final qualifying round. The result gave us the confidence to go forward," he concluded.
Significantly, India had to traverse the longest path than anyone else to qualify to the quadrennial continental championship. India had played 18 matches, most by any team who booked their berth in the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
India vs Thailand at Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Saturday, January 6, 5.30pm local time (7pm IST)
Live: Star Sports 3
Live streaming: Hotstar