Both India and Thailand are in group A with hosts UAE and Bahrain completing the group. India is a better-placed team as far as the FIFA World rankings are concerned than Thailand. India stands tall at 97 compared to Thailand who is some 14 places behind them. In both of India's last two appearances in the tournament in 1984 and 2011, they crashed out in the Group Stages itself. With 2011 being a year in which the men in blue lost all the three matches of the group stage and were knocked out there and then.
Before going any further, let’s just quickly compare the two teams in the last few months. India came into the tournament in the back of two goalless draws with China and Oman while also losing 2-1 to Jordan. These are the results since October 2018. Thailand has enjoyed quite an impressive spell in the same time frame. They have played 9 and scored 19, losing only to Oman. The Indian team came into this match knowing that a positive result here and a draw in any one of the games against UAE (10 January) and Bahrain (14 January) could be enough for the Blue Tigers to advance to the knockout round.
The game went just as the Indian coach Stephen Constantine may have thought in his dreams. A thumping 4-1 victory over a Thailand side who had played quite well in the recent few matches. Although it's only the first hurdle crossed, the Indian side looks determined to go deep into the tournament. Here are the five talking points from the game between India and Thailand:
Sunil Chhetri is THE man to watch out for: This name on the scoring sheet will not surprise anyone. Sunil Chettri is just the player you would look out for if you need a goal. His penalty in the first half just showed his class. His typical style of sending the goalkeeper one side and burying the ball on the other side. His volley in the first few minutes of the second half was a treat to watch. An even better finish than the first one. A goal that even Cristiano Ronaldo would be proud of. He was heavily involved in the other two goals too.
Jeje Lalpekhlua is a super-sub: He has been doing it time and again in the Indian Super League. Scoring in just about a few minutes after coming onto the field. He was called in at the 78-minute mark and he drilled the ball in the back of the net in just about two minutes. Just Jeje Lalpekhlua things!
Thailand's defence looked weak: Although the defence stood tall in most of the first half. It was the second half that exposed the reality when defenders were just mere spectators. And the Indian frontline was just toying with them. Their Goalkeeper was also making a few mistakes here and there and should be thankful to his defenders for helping him out or the scoreline could have been worse for them.
The captain maintained a solid backline: It was great to see young Gurpreet Singh wearing the captain’s armband. He is the man for the future and he has reflected that in this outing. He looked firm and confident and saved everything that was thrown at him except that one goal from Dangda. The defence looked strong as they hold onto a team that has been averaging more than 2 goals a game in their last 10 games.
It could prove to be a seed to something very big: This was their biggest ever win in the tournament. The team has shown a lot of improvements and is certainly taking long strides to compete with the top sides of the world. This isn't coming anytime sooner but there is a lot of optimism revolving around the fans. Although, it's just a victory over a side that was placed below them. It was more of the way in which they won. As many as two world-class finishes in a single game speak a lot in itself.