India need draw versus Bahrain to advance
SHARJAH: Expectations weren’t very high when Stephen Constantine’s India began their Asian Cup campaign in Abu Dhabi last Sunday. A surprise 4-1 win over Thailand and a promising performance against hosts UAE in a 2-0 defeat, have raised prospects of a place in the Round of 16. India take on Bahrain in their last group game at the Al-sharjah Stadium on Monday, with the knowledge that a draw will be enough to take them to the next round.
In the last two of the three editions they have played in, India failed to make it past the opening round of the Asian Cup. In 1964, when India finished runners-up, only four teams had taken part in a round robin format.
Currently second in the group with three points, the scenario for Constantine’s side is simple. A win will see India seal a top-2 place in the group, with the possibility of a top spot in the event of UAE failing to beat Thailand. A draw will take India to the next round, irrespective of what happens in the other group game. If UAE win or draw against Thailand, India will be second in the group.
If Thailand beat UAE, India will finish the group third with a draw but will still progress to the next round as one of the best third-placed teams. As many as four of the third-placed teams from the six groups will make it to the last-16, and in at least three of these groups, the third-placed teams are guaranteed to finish with three points or less.
However, a loss will leave India at the mercy of other results. If India lose and UAE fail to beat Thailand, India will finish bottom of the group and will be out of the tournament. Constantine’s side will need to hope for a UAE win in such a scenario. However, even then, India will finish with just three points and progression to the next round will be dependent on the points tally and goal differences of all six third-placed teams.
Ahead of the crunch game, India will be high on confidence after two bright performances. Constantine decided to name an unchanged XI against UAE after the win over Thailand, and despite a crucial error from centre-back