New Delhi: Indian captain Sunil Chhetri on Wednesday stated "India will be looking to get no less than 3 points against Thailand" ahead of the Blue Tigers' fourth participation in the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
"I was involved in the mock draw that happened for the Asian Cup and I was wondering what team we could draw. I knew whichever team that we drew, it would be difficult for us. But now, we are ready to face anyone. We are well prepared and looking forward to the challenge," the striker stated.
Comparing India's current preparation to the one in 2011, Chhetri added: "In 2011, we were together for 6 months. But this time of the year, all the boys that have been selected are playing constantly in the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League. Now we just have to come together as a single unit and give it our best shot when we get to UAE."
Meanwhile, head coach Stephen Constantine admitted the team has "enough time to acclimatise."
"We have tried our best to prepare in the best possible fashion. We wanted to play big teams and strong teams like we did against China and Jordan. We next play Oman on December 27. We have got the right amount of competition to build us and are ready.
"The Asian Cup is a massive tournament for India and everyone involved in the sport. We have three games from January 6-14 and I am focusing on them. We will take one game at a time and we have scouted Thailand intensively to the point that we have watched them 3-4 times for analysis. We look forward to making India proud," Constantine said.
The national team had participated in 1964, 1984 and 2011 editions of the AFC Asian Cup.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel termed India's participation in the upcoming prestigious event as a "precursor to India's goal to achieve a berth in the FIFA World Cup by 2026."
"The Asian dream needs to be achieved by 2026 as there will be 8 teams from Asia in the FIFA World Cup. You just always cannot live a dream and we have to make the Asian dream a reality. And with the form, the national team is in, and if Sunil Chhetri and everybody can pull their feet together, we can make it a reality," Patel said.
Heaping praises on the team, Patel said: "The reasons that we have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 is because of players like Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Anirudh Thapa, Jeje and Udanta Singh and all others. It is because of these players that I go on the pitch without any pressure. They do all the hard work while I just tap the ball in."
"We should always go for the maximum and we should try to win the tournament, let alone get out of the group stages. We are mentally and physically prepared. We wish the team all the very best and they have the full support of the AIFF.
The whole nation should support the national team and should fully get behind them. It is imperative that the nation roots for them and as the tournament is in UAE, I hope we will get a lot of support there," he added.
A 28-member squad will leave Indian shores for the preparation in Abu Dhabi on December 20, with the 23-member list is all slated to be announced on December 26. India will play an International friendly against Oman on December 27.
India have been drawn in Group A for the upcoming prestigious event along with hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain. The Blue Tigers will play their first match against Thailand on January 6, followed by hosts UAE on January 10, and Bahrain on January 14....