The Indian football team, on Wednesday, sealed qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with a 4-1 thrashing of Macau in Bengaluru. India are top of their third round qualifying group having won all four matches that they have played so far. The goal they conceded in Bengaluru was also the first that they had conceded in the third round so far. An AIFF release stated that coach Stephen Constantine referred to the victory as a “terrific team effort over anything else.” “We achieved our goal tonight to qualify for Asian Cup. I’m immensely proud of my team. They have followed my manners, my demands. They’ve gone through anything and everything like the tough training regime, rigorous pressure and at the end of the day, they have delivered,” said the Englishman.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) 11 October 2017
This is only the fourth time in Asian Cup history that India will be making an appearance. India had finished runners-up to Israel in 1964 after which they played in the 1984 tournament held in Singapore. India then qualified for the tournament only in 2011. The gap of 27 years is the longest any team have had in tournament history. India then fell out of contention for the 2015 tournament and have now made it to the 2019 edition to be held in the UAE.
Earned our right to battle against Asia’s best and what better place to do it than at the Fortress. Happy,proud,relieved and more. pic.twitter.com/a4DkDJCCNK
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) 11 October 2017
The win was celebrated by players and fans alike. Captain Sunil Chettri, who has a goal and an assist to his name in the match was quoted as saying that not qualifying for the 2019 tournament still rankled. He also tweeted out that India have “earned” their right to “battle against Asia’s best.” He also stated his happiness at securing qualification at the “the Fortress,” the name that is used by Bengaluru FC and its fans for the Sri Kanteerava stadium. Chhetri played for Bengaluru FC between 2013 and 2017 and won two I-League titles with the side, apart from reaching the AFC Cup finals. He still plays for them in their AFC Cup matches as their captain.
Apart from Chettri, CK Vineeth, who did not get a runout on Thursday, also tweeted an image of the team celebrating the win. Defender Anas Edathodika and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also celebrated the victory on their social media handles.
— Anas Edathodika (@anasedathodika) 11 October 2017
— CK Vineeth (@ckvineeth) 11 October 2017
— Gurpreet Singh (@GurpreetGK) 11 October 2017
India still have two games left in qualifying.