The odds are stacked against India but a confident head coach Stephen Constantine says his players have it in them to qualify for the next round of the AFC Asian Cup by beating Bahrain, in Sharjah on Monday.
The Group A is currently balanced on a knife’s edge, with all four teams still standing a chance to qualify for the Round of 16.
While hosts UAE lead the proceedings with four points from two games, India and Thailand are close behind with three points each.
The ‘Blue Tigers’ are ahead of the ‘War Elephants’ by virtue of a better head-to-head record, while Bahrain lies bottom with one point.
A win for India will be enough to directly seal a berth in the next round, although, with four best third-placed teams from the six groups also advancing to the Round of 16, a draw will also see India through.
So far, India and Bahrain have faced each other seven times. While Bahrain have won five times, India have just managed a solitary win, with the other match ending in a draw. In fact, the last time that the two teams squared off was in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar where India lost 2-5.
Constantine says his side can script history.
“I have said it before that we can qualify from this group. That is our objective right now,” said Constantine on the eve of the match.
“I don’t believe in records. There are a lot of factors that come into play. When was the last time we played them? Was it the same team? What were the circumstances? Everything’s always changing,” said Constantine.
“If we win, we don’t have to worry about anyone else. So we’ll focus on ourselves and see what happens from there. It’s an important game for us. Obviously, we want to do well and get the three points.
“I’m not sure whether we can call it ‘do-or-die’. That’s a bit too dramatic, I think,” Constantine said.
The India coach had words of praise for the opponents.
“They defend very well and are very well organised. I’m sure that it will be difficult. But we have shown that we can score against good teams. I’m sure we can score tomorrow as well,” he maintained.