India coach Constantine tells team to stay grounded after Thai high


Sunil Chhetri scored a brace to help India beat Thailand 4-1.

The Blue Tigers were in front for just seven minutes, Thai captain Teerasil Dangda restoring parity by bravely heading home a Theerathon Bunmathan free kick. Another goal from Chhetri restored their lead before further strikes from Anirudh Thapa and Jeje rounded off the win in Abu Dhabi.

Interestingly, Sunil Chhetri, who was playing his 104th match, took his worldwide goal tally to 67 goals surpassing Barcelona icon Lionel Messi. The country had won two matches in the 1964 edition in Israel.

"Around the 25-30 minute mark, you saw them [Thailand] pass and we just couldn't touch them".

A brace from Sunil Chhetri, which took him ahead of Lionel Messi on worldwide goals, formed the first two goals as India returned to the continental championship after eight years.

He is still a way off Ronaldo's 85 goals for Portugal but 34-year-old is also 20th on the all-time list - ahead of not only Messi but the likes of Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and Brazilian icon Ronaldo Nazario. "The real problem for us was that we did not have a response to India's aggressive style of play".

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Constantine's men marked their return to the continental showpiece event after an eight-year hiatus with a brilliant second half display to secure a surprise triumph against the more-fancied War Elephants to move top of Group A.

Asked what transpired between head coach Stephen Constantine and the players at half-time, Chhetri said, "We just made sure that we can't allow them to play their natural game. Chhetri gives everything every game he plays whether he's captain or not".

He sphearheaded India to victory in the 2008 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, scoring four times. There are some goals which you just celebrate because of the team-effort behind that and Thapa's goal was one of them.

Thailand's head coach Milovan Rajevac reacts during the AFC Asian Cup group A soccer match between Thailand and India at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.

Chhetri refused to predict anything but said the team will take one game at a time.