There is plenty of hope and expectations riding on India’s campaign at the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup. The hope graph just surmounted after India’s historic win against Thailand since 1964 in the Asian Cup.
Among the 24 teams in the fray in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India is making their fourth-ever appearance in the continental competition. Runners-up to Israel in the 1964 edition, India has suffered group-stage exits in their subsequent two editions in 1984 and 2011 and finished runners-up in 1964.
Making the knockouts of the tournament this time around will not be easy for Stephen Constantine’s boys. Though, it still looks tough with India drawn alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in Group A.
India, taking part in their fourth Asian Cup and first since 2011, have come into the continental showpiece after creditable draws against China and Oman in the lead-up to the tournament. They lost narrowly (1-2) to Jordan in their third big match ahead of the Asian Cup.
The 1964 edition of the tournament saw India record its best-ever finish, a runners-up spot but only four teams participated in the third edition of the Asian Cup.
Let’s see the journey and the performance of the Blue Tigers at the AFC Asian Cup up till now and how have they evolved over the years:
1964 AFC Asian Cup Israel
Indian Football Team qualified to the 1964 edition of Asian Cup without having to play any qualification matches as several teams had withdrawn or boycotted to the tournament due it being hosted by Israel.
Watch @NovyKapadia recalling India’s astounding performance at the 1964 AFC Asian Cup, along with a discussion with Terry Phelan and @menacesingh on India’s chances in the tournament! ⚽️?#KickOff #SPNSports pic.twitter.com/G66MllRKRw
— SPN- Sports (@SPNSportsIndia) January 6, 2019
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s Prime Minister at the time died on the day of their opening match but the team took to the field against South Korea and beat the Taeguk Warriors 2-0 courtesy of goals from K Appalaraju and Inder Singh.
They lost to the hosts Israel 2-0 in their next match but bounced back to defeat Hong Kong 3-1 in their final encounter, Inder Singh striking again. India finished as runners-up with four points, behind eventual winners Israel.
1984 AFC Asian Cup Singapore
The Blue Tigers were on the decline since the 1960s and failed to qualify for the event for 20 years until 1984 when India hosted the 1984 Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata.
India eventually went down tamely in the final round, losing all but one of their matches.
Drawn against the hosts Singapore, China, Iran and the UAE, India conceded seven in their four matches, scoring none.
2011 AFC Asian Cup Qatar
India qualified by virtue of winning the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 at home, beating Tajikistan 4-1 in the final with Sunil Chhetri bagging a hat-trick. The competition though was disastrous for India as Blue Tigers despite going through massive preparations suffered heavy defeats in their campaign and ended up conceding 13 goals in three games.
2019 AFC Asian Cup
Thailand ?? will play India ?? at Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi to kickstart their #AsianCup2019 campaign. Will these players be the difference as they face each other for the first time in an international tournament? ? pic.twitter.com/7vWmwI9iNk
— #AsianCup2019 (@afcasiancup) January 6, 2019
India will have the chance to test themselves against the UAE in the group stages itself but it is the larger picture they should be looking at during the Asian Cup. The brief should be to make giant strides towards ‘Mission 2026’. Even makeup of the team should reflect that and the next generation of Indian team is already being groomed. That is most important at the moment.
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