Stephen Constantine: Milestone moments as the Indian football team's coach
The Indian football team is being praised on all fronts after a spectacular performance saw them thrash Thailand 4-1 in their first 2019 AFC Asian Cup match last night. Of course, credit also went to coach Stephen Constantine, who is regarded as the key figure behind India's recent footballing successes. Here, we look at some of Constantine's greatest achievements as India's coach.
During his first stint in 2002, Constantine took a young Indian squad in the U-23 category to the LG Cup in Vietnam. After drawing with Singapore U-23 and winning against Vietnam U-23, India reached the final which they won with a scoreline of 3-2. The victory was the first time India won a major international tournament since the 1972 Asian Football Championship bronze.
The Indian football team's highest-ever rank was 94, which was achieved in 1996. However, since then, The Blue Tigers' rank had been on a steady decline until Constantine was selected as the head coach in 2015. It was under him that India's rank started rising, and India managed to achieve their second-highest rank ever, 97, after trailing in the 170s for long.
The 2015 SAFF Championship became another milestone for Constantine when he helped India reach their seventh victory in the tournament's history. India defeated Afghanistan in the final, coming back from being 0-1 down to clinch victory with a scoreline of 2-1. Sunil Chhetri was adjudged the best player of the tournament, whose current champions are the Maldives.
India's victory over Thailand was the first time the Blue Tigers emerged triumphant in the Asian Cup since their 1964 campaign, which India ended being runners-up to hosts Israel. The 4-1 victory with goals from Sunil Chhetri, Anirudh Thapa, and Jeje Lalpekhlua has given the Indian team a major boost ahead of their all-important match against UAE on January 10.