Category: AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

AFC Asian Cup 2019: New champions lift new trophy

Abu Dhabi: Qatar were crowned AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 champions on Friday as superb goals from Almoez Ali and Abdelaziz Hatim laid the foundation for a 3-1 win over Japan in a rousing final at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The pair both found the net brilliantly in an inspirational first half for Qatar, while, despite a spirited second-half display from Japan, Akram Afif added a late penalty to secure the West Asian nation’s first-ever Continental crown in spectacular fashion.

On a historic night for the Qataris, Felix Sanchez’s talented charges recorded their seventh successive victory, while Ali’s ninth strike of the competition saw him break Ali Daei’s record for the most goals by a player in a single edition of Asia’s premier event.

While there was unbridled joy for Qatar, the defeat ended Japanese hopes of claiming what would have been a record-extending fifth title.

Japan, who had Tsukasa Shiotani replacing Wataru Endo, were quick to take the game to Qatar as Yuya Osako sent a fourth minute effort wide of the target.

However, it was to be their opponents who took the lead just eight minutes later through a moment of brilliance from Ali.

The young striker received the ball from Afif before juggling the ball twice and sending a spectacular overhead kick beyond the reach of Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda to etch himself into the record books and further underline his burgeoning reputation.

After their early setback, Japan looked for a quick response, but continually failed to find a way through a resolute Qatari defence that had not conceded a single goal en route to the title showdown.

With their frontline failing to shine, worse was to come for Japan on 27 minutes when yet another Akram Afif assist – his 10th of the competition – found the back from suspension Abdelaziz Hatim who curled a delightful effort into the bottom corner to double Qatar’s advantage.

Two nearly became three for Qatar shortly after, as captain Hassan Al Haydos hit the outside of a post with an angled shot following Pedro Correia’s deflected cross.

To their credit, Japan refused to buckle, and they came close to reducing the deficit on the stroke of half-time, Osako narrowly failing to apply a finishing touch to a Yuto Nagatomo cross when well-placed.

In need of a response, Japan once again started brightly, with Maya Yoshida heading over from a corner inside the first five minutes of the second period.

With the game’s pace showing no sign of relenting, Almoez Ali then skied a chance from close-range, while, at the other end, substitute Yoshinori Muto and Yoshida both flashed headers off target as the Samurai Blue continued to press.

Their persistence duly paid off on 69 minutes as Takumi Minamino reduced the deficit courtesy of a wonderful dinked finish over Qatar custodian Saad Al Sheeb after being set up by Osako.

It mattered little however, as, with eight minutes remaining, referee Ravshan Irmatov pointed to the spot following Yoshida’s handball and a subsequent VAR review. Akram Afif converted the resulting penalty with aplomb to confirm Qatar’s title.

Anas Edathodika retires from international football

MUMBAI: Anas Edathodika has stunned Indian football team fans by announcing his retirement from international football following their elimination from the AFC Asian Cup 2019. The defender took to social media to announce the decision.

“It comes with a very heavy heart today to announce my retirement from Indian national football team. It’s been a very hard decision to take and accept. I love to play more years at my best, but I think it’s the time to step down and give opportunities to youngsters who can perform better.” Anas wrote on facebook.

“It took 11 years to break into the national team and playing for the national team is the top achievement in my career; although the journey was short. Each and every time I tried to give more than 100 percent for the team. I was so disappointed to pick up an injury in the opening minutes and it will hurt me forever.” he added.

The 31-year-old played just two minutes against Bahrain before being substituted by Salam Ranjan Singh after picking up an injury.

A relatively late newcomer to the national team set-up, Anas made his debut for India under Stephen Constantine in March 2017 in a away friendly match against Cambodia aged 30 , since then he has been a regular feature in Constantine’s side and picked up 19 caps for India.

“I just want to say a huge thanks to the coach Stephen Constantine for believing in me and giving me the opportunity and I wish you good luck for the future. Also thanks to all the coaching staffs, teammates, the fans and who all have supported me throughout my journey for the national team. I have been blessed to play for my country, with some of the best players. My heart will forever embrace the feeling of walking through the tunnel and out onto the field donning the national jersey with my brothers,” he wrote.

“Sandesh Jhingan, we had a good partnership in guarding the central defence, it was an emotion playing with you, brother. Jeje, Trust me, you’re the best room partner I ever had and I’ll miss all these. I wish you all good luck and keep making our nation proud. These memories will stay with me forever,” he added.

Stephen Constantine resigns following Asian Cup elimination

MUMBAI: Stephen Constantine has resigned as head coach of Indian football team following their elimination at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

A 1-0 defeat to Bahrain on Monday ended India’s chances of making it to the round of 16. Following the loss in Sharjah, Constantine took the decision to step down, ending his second reign at the helm.

“Mr. Stephen Constantine has announced his resignation as the Head Coach of the Indian National Team. We haven’t received any official communication from him yet but we accept his decision and thank him for his contribution to Indian football,” said Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF.

The 56-year-old Constantine had been in charge since 2015. During his second stint as the head coach after 2005, Indian football team saw a massive climb in FIFA Ranking, eventually culminating in them breaking the Top 100 barrier.

India, however, failed to reach the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup in UAE. Constantine’s side beat Thailand 4-1, lost to UAE 2-0 and, needing a draw, fell to Bahrain 1-0.

 

Jamal Rashed score late penalty to break Indian hearts

SHARJAH, UAE: The Indian National Team lost by a solitary goal against Bahrain at the Sharjah Stadium in UAE today (January 14, 2019) to finish bottom of Group A with three points, crashing out of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Jamal Rashed’s 91st-minute penalty broke Indian hearts as the opponents ran out eventual winners, after a solid defensive performance from Constantine’s men.

In a nervous start for the Blue Tigers, Anas succumbed to injury in the opening minutes and was replaced by Salam Ranjan Singh. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s goal was threatened and he was called into action as early as the 5th minute when he pulled off an uncanny save off Komail’s shot from outside the box.

With Bahrain literally keeping possession for the first ten minutes, India’s first chance came in the 13th when Pritam Kotal released a cross for Ashique Kuruniyan, whose header was blocked by the opposition defence. Halicharan Nazary’s 22ndminute shot added to India’s shot tally but hit the side-netting.

The 28th minute saw some exquisite passing by India in Bahrain’s box. Pronay Halder found Halicharan on the wings, who dribbled in and laid one for Sunil Chhetri lurking in the box. Last ditch tackle from Bahrain’s defence blanked Chhetri as he was attempting to shoot on goal from less than 10 yards.

With Bahrain having the lion’s share of possession, the Blue Tigers defended with their lives, with Sandesh Jhingan marshalling the backline. The Indian midfield, compact, came back to help the backline, hence allowing Bahrain shots from distance.

Though Bahrain penetrated into the Indian box, the opponents did not create any serious trouble that Sandesh and his line could not deal with. Even skipper Pronay Halder made a goalline clearance in the dying embers of the first half to keep Bahrain at bay.

Coach Constantine added more spark in the attack with the introduction of Jeje Lalpekhlua at the half-way point, replacing Ashique Kuruniyan. But it still was the defensive performances of Pronay Halder and Sandesh Jhingan that provided the forwards cover and thwarted the opposition attacks.

In the 60th minute, Sandesh Jhingan made a sliding tackle to deny an open goal tap-in to Bahrain forwards after a cross from the Indian right flank went unchecked.

A few minutes later, Udanta Singh got into the thick of defensive action and made a sensational tackle in the Indian box to rob the opponents of possession. Minutes before, he was brought down around the Bahrain box and the resulting free-kick was sent over the bar by Sunil Chhetri.

In the 73rd minute, Bahrain got an indirect free-kick inside the box after Gurpreet had collected a back pass but the Indian defence line saw out the free-kick, flinging bodies to keep the ball out of the goal.

The India custodian pulled off a world-class save in the 83rd minute to deny Bahrain from a close-range header, following a corner kick, and Pritam Kotal blocked the resulting shot.

Jamal Rashed scored from the spot in the dying embers of the game to hand Bahrain a last gasp win after Pronay Halder brought Hamad Al Shamsan down in the box.

INDIA: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika (4’ – Salam Ranjan Singh), Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose; Udanta Singh, Pronay Halder (C), Rowllin Borges, Halicharan Narzary (79’ – Anirudh Thapa), Ashique Kuruniyan (45’ – Jeje Lalpekhlua), Sunil Chhetri.

India out to avenge 2011 defeat against Bahrain

SHARJAH: Eight years back on January 14, 2011 in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 India had gone down fighting against Bahrain 2-5.

Eight years on, India gear up to take on Bahrain on the same day — where a victory will ensure Sunil Chhetri and the boys a qualification into the Round of 16, an achievement which is bound to speak wonders for Indian Football.

Chhetri, currently the second-highest goal scorer in International Football among active players at the moment, had scored India’s second goal in that match eight years back. Little wonder, with all the maturity gained over the last eight years, Chhetri will aim to score again against Bahrain when the two teams meet tomorrow (January 14, 20190).

Chhetri shook his head. “It doesn’t matter who scores as long as we score. It’s a team game,” he quipped. “The awareness and interest in football has certainly grown in India. Everyone who is associated with football is responsible for it. But I also want to say that it’s a very small jump which we have taken. We have to keep our heads down and keep working hard,” said Chhetri, a day prior to the Bahrain clash.

“It was an extremely difficult group back then,” he recalled. “We had Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in the group. The only positive, apart from the fact that we played our hearts out was that we scored three goals.”

“The one distinct thing I remember was scoring. Renedy’s great dribbling first, and then his fierce shot from 35 yards hit the bar, and dropped,” he recalled. “Later on, in the replays, we saw that the ball had gone in. But it wasn’t given. Off Renedy’s rebound, Abhishek Yadav hit the bar too, and as it fell to me, I headed it in.”

While India stand on the cusp of qualification, Sunil Chhetri summed the situation perfectly: “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.”

Apart from the second-placed finish back in 1964, this is arguably one of the most memorable moments in India’s AFC Asian Cup appearances.

Apart from Chhetri, the sole member to have a taste of the 2011 edition was Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. But that time, with ‘Spiderman’ making the mark, Gurpreet had watched from the bench.

“I remember everyone was very calm the before the Bahrain game. We believed that we could get a result from that game. We even managed to score a couple of goals. But unfortunately, we ended up losing,” the custodian said.

“Eight years down the line we are back in the Asian Cup playing Bahrain again. Things are different, the teams are different. But we are in a better situation,” says Gurpreet.

While the likes of Chhetri and Gurpreet were sweating it off in Doha there was another crop of young guns, who at that point, were merely dreaming of greater things to come in their lives.

“I remember I had tears in my eyes that day, and made one of those crazy promises that you make as a kid – I’m going to play for India one day and bring glory. But here I am today, ready to play against them tomorrow,” said central defender Sandesh Jhingan.

“It’s hard to believe, sometimes. Even if God came down and told me to write down my future eight years back, I would not have believed that I would be here, and facing Bahrain on this very day.”

Young defender Subhasish Bose has only broken into the squad some six months ago. However, eight years back, he was just like any other young fan, watching his heroes in action against the best teams in Asia.

And like any other kid, he also yearned to avenge the defeat that was inflicted on his heroes, who had played their hearts out that fateful night.

“I was watching the Bahrain game with my dad. We were both disappointed on losing the match, but now we have the chance to get our revenge for that defeat,” said Bose.

UAE lucky to escape with win against India

ABU DHABI: Aiming for qualification from the group stages, the Indian National Team ended up on the losing side going down 0-2 to hosts United Arab Emirates in their second Group stage match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

The Blue Tigers next play Bahrain in their last match on January 14. India are presently on three points from 2 matches, the same as Thailand, with UAE currently topping the group with 4 points from 2 matches.

It was a day when the Indians hit the post twice in the second half and muffed two in the first-half. Alhamsi’s 40th-minute strike much against the run of play, and then Ali Mabkhout’s 80th-minute goal played villain on a night where the Blue Tigers gave the hosts the scare of their lives from the first minute itself.

It just seemed like fate did not allow India to score.

In the first half, India could have almost sealed it. The Blue Tigers started with an attacking intensity, and although lacked possession, chances came in bright and plenty.

India could have surged into the lead as early as the 8th minute when Sandesh Jhingan got a free-header off a corner kick but headed it wide.

Three minutes later, the Arab custodian Khalid Bilal pulled out a world class save to break Indian hearts and deny Ashique Kuruniyan’s shot from close range after Sunil Chhetri had put him through.

If that wasn’t enough of a goal scoring chance, skipper Chhetri was handed a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute. Chhetri was found in the box by Anirudh Thapa but his header went straight to the rival Goalkeeper.

Had India taken these chances, the Blue Tigers would have been up 3-0 in less than thirty minutes — such was the intensity of their counter-attacks which was promoted through the defensive solidity at the back.

With India unable to take their chances, UAE scored against the run of play in the 40th minute. Khalfan Alhamsi took advantage of a slight miscommunication in the Indian defence and found the back of the net through a chip from a tight angle.

India had another chance to open their goalscoring tally after the UAE defence fluffed a routine clearance providing Sunil Chhetri with a tight angle to score. Chhetri’s placement went inches past the goal as India failed to capitalize and went trailing into the breather.

Changing over, the chances kept coming for India. In the 53rd minute, Jeje Lalpekhlua, who was brought on as a substitute for Halicharan Narzay, tried to slyly chip past the goalkeeper from range after a failed clearance fell to his chest. His shot, however, went past the goal and the UAE goalkeeper.

In the 55th minute, the Blue Tigers rattled the crossbar after Udanta Singh’s shot kissed the bar and went away, following a one-two with Sunil Chhetri inside the box.

In the 73rd minute, however, UAE skipper’s Alhammadi’s shot rattled the left post.

But they had the last laugh when in the 88th minute, Ali Mabkhout breached India’s defence and found the back of the net to take it beyond India’s reach.

A desperate India went all out and UAE had another close shave when Sandesh Jhingan’s header off a Rowllin Borges’ free-kick bounced back off the bar.

INDIA: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose; Udanta Singh (79’ – Jackichand Singh), Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa (70’ – Rowllin Borges), Halicharan Narzary (45’ – Jeje Lalpekhlua), Ashique Kuruniyan, Sunil Chhetri (C).

Constantine stay confident ahead of UAE tie

ABU DHABI: Before taking on hosts UAE in their second match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, coach Stephen Constantine stressed that the “game is played on the pitch, not on paper.”

“We know all the three games are going to be very tough. There’ll be no easy game at this level. But we’ll go toe-to-toe with them. A game is not played on paper, but on the pitch. The UAE are the hosts and will be under pressure. It’s understandable they will go for all three points,” Constantine expressed.

The match which is scheduled to be played at the gigantic Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi tomorrow (January 10, 2019) will be telecast live on Star Sports 2, 3 and will also be streamed live on Hotstar. The kick-off is slated for IST 9.30pm.

UAE are currently ranked 79 in the FIFA rankings, and they have been on the winning side on eight occasions against India out of 13 matches played between the two sides. The Blue Tigers have won thrice.

The last encounter between these two sides which took place at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi in 2011 had ended in a 2-2 draw, with the last goal being scored by Jeje Lalpekhlua.

“Jeje is a very good player. But unfortunately, he did not have much game time recently. You put Jeje in the position and he will score for you. I was so happy that he scored the goal against Thailand. He deserves to get the goal, especially at this level,” the coach was all praise for the Mizo sniper.

Constantine added: “They are a physical, as well as a skilful side. I am not worried about our fitness. We have to play our best game to get the result.”

Sunil Chhetri, who added another two to his International goal scoring tally in the last outing, also earned huge plaudits from the coach. The two goals took him to 67, surpassing Lionel Messi in the highest scoring active player’s list.

“Sunil has always given everything whenever he has played for the National Team. I can’t complain about this. He is there to do his job and his job is to score goals. He has a phenomenal scoring record and we’re better with him in the team,” the Coach maintained.

“Against Thailand, we gave the ball away too many times which put the opposition in an advantageous position. We have to look after the ball better. I feel we started a bit nervous. Some young boys were too eager to press. We can’t repeat it against UAE.”

Meanwhile, deploying Ashique Kuruniyan up front alongside Sunil Chhetri proved to be a perfect masterstroke by the 55-year-old coach. When he was asked whether he has any further trickery up his sleeves, he quipped: “You have to wait and see.”

Blue Tigers come together to light up blind football

ABU DHABI: In a gesture to light up blind football in India, the Blue Tigers have decided to donate a sum of Rs. 50,000 from monetary sanctions gathered for breach of discipline to the Indian Blind Football Federation to buy footballs to them to play.

The sanctions which have been prevalent over the past few years in the form of monetary fines have been collected for breach of discipline like arriving late for sessions, carrying mobile phones for meals, wearing the wrong attire, etc.

Head Coach Stephen Constantine felt “it’s important to give it back to the community.”

“The footballs which the blind footballers use cost $50 each. So we are helping them buy some balls,” he said. “We collectively agreed among everybody within the National Team — the players, and the staff that any money collected from fines or any misdemeanours will be donated for a good cause. It’s just a very small gesture, but it shows that we can.”

National Team Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stated the players “support the noble cause wholeheartedly.”

“We love this concept of helping others with the money,” explained Gurpreet. “The sanctions are there to impart discipline amongst us. Although nobody wants to be fined, this initiative makes us believe in the larger aspects of life. If we are able to contribute for a cause or help, why not. It helps us be better individuals.”

Meanwhile, Sunil J Mathew, Sporting Director, IBFF, thanked the Blue Tigers for their initiative. “This is to acknowledge and thank you for the donation towards helping cover the stay & kit expenses at the National Blind Football Academy at Kochi,” he commented. “We would like to especially thank the entire AIFF Coaching staff & the National Team for their support. We wish the entire team the very best for the Asian Cup.”

Stephen Constantine looks to stay grounded after big win

ABU DHABI: A superb second-half performance where the Indian National Team scored three goals in a 4-1 win over Thailand, led the Blue Tigers to the top of Group A, showcasing the attacking prowess and disciplined defending of Constantine’s men.

Speaking at the Official Post Match Press Conference, Head Coach Stephen Constantine, however, played down the emotion.

“We try to win every match that we play in. We don’t go into a match expecting to win 4-1 or 5-1. However, we are not trying to get carried away with the emotion,” said Constantine.

“We still have two games left and we still need another two points to qualify from the group stages. After we have qualified, we can get a little bit excited but our primary job is still to qualify out of the group stages.

“It is a cliché as it is just another match for us. It is another win that we wanted and have got in the AFC Asian Cup. Tomorrow morning, we train again,” he added.

India are the second youngest side in the AFC Asian Cup with an average age of 25 years. “We gave a good testament of ourselves against Thailand and we are a young side that is capable of a lot many things. People got a taste of what we can do, today.”

Although India started slowly and the game was tied 1-1 at half-time, three goals in the second half left Thailand breathless and stunned. “The main thing was to make the most of our chances and that we did today. I am happy that we are converting from the chances that we are making,” he further said.

“We do start a little slow as the first 15-20minutes can be a little nervous. It was important to not concede a goal in those minutes and that is what we did,” Constantine concluded.

India hammer Thailand 4-1 to begin AFC Asian Cup campaign

ABU DHABI: Back in the AFC Asian Cup after an eight-year wait, the Blue Tigers kicked-off their campaign in Asia’ elite footballing tournament in style with a 4-1 win over Thailand.

A brace from talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri and a goal each from Anirudh Thapa and a sublime finish by Jeje Lalpekhlua rounded India’s first victory in the Asian Cup since 1964.

The superb performance in the second half sealed it for India. Some tacky play in the attacking third, non-stop pressing and some no-nonsense defending stayed the highlights.

With the pairing of Sandesh Jhingan and Anas commanding the backline, the Blue Tigers’ defensive compactness in the early minutes proved to be stubborn.

India closed down quicker in the midfield, not allowing their players time on the ball. It only provided the time for the likes of Ashique Kuruniyan and Anirudh Thapa to dictate play in an attacking stance. And although Thailand dominated possession, India had the better of the chances and showed bright signs around the opponent’s 18-yard box.

Ashique Kuruniyan’s pace and tackiness down the left wing gave India an opportunity to score as early as the 3rd minute, but his cross, flashed in front of goal, with no Indian bodies able to make contact.

India surged into the lead in the 27th minute. A quick throw-in by Sunil Chhetri on the left flank released Ashique on the flanks and the latter burst through the Thai defence to earn a penalty kick, courtesy a handball by Thailand’s’ Theerathon. Chhetri, as composed as ever, converted from the spot.

But the Tigers could not hold to the lead for long. In the 33rd minute, Thailand equalized after Teerasil Dangda’s header crashed into the Indian net from a free-kick.

Changing over, India regained their lead, a brilliant strike from Chhetri doing the trick for them. Chhetri banged it in from the top box off an Ashique back-heel after Udanta Singh’s run had done the damage.

Chhetri almost scored his hat-trick in the 63rd minute when Thailand’s goalkeeper Bootprom muffed a cross from Udanta, only an onrushing Chhetri’s effort was saved for a corner.

By then it was all India in the midfield. The combination for the third one in the 68th minute was a marvel to watch. Following an exquisite defence-splitting pass from Chhetri, Udanta teed-off Anirudh Thapa in the box for the latter to chip into the net over two helpless Thai defenders and the goalkeeper.

Substitute Jeje’s strike in the 80th minute sealed the fate for India. He received it from Halicharan on the top of the box, turned in a flash and placed it with the edge of his boot.

India next play face hosts UAE in their second match of the tournament on January 10.

INDIA: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK) (C); Subhashish Bose, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathokida, Pritam Kotal; Ashique Kuruniyan (78’- Jeje Lalpekhlua), Pronay Halder (87’ – Germanpreet Singh), Anirudh Thapa (78’ – Rowllin Borges), Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Sunil Chhetri.