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Buriram (Thailand), June 7 (IANS) Revenge will be on Thailand’s mind when they take on India in the King’s Cup third-place play-off match here at the Chang Arena on Saturday.
It was only five months ago that India, coached by Stephen Constantine, opened their AFC Asian Cup campaign with a stunning 4-1 win against Thailand.
Since then a lot has changed with Croatian Igor Stimac taking over as head coach as India crashed out of the Asian Cup in the group stages.
In their King’s Cup knockout clash against Curacao, India lost 1-3 to lose their chance to play in the final.
In the other tie, hosts Thailand lost to Vietnam 0-1.
Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference, Stimac made clear his intentions of continuing from where his team left off against Curacao, where they put on a commendable second-half display against a vastly experienced side.
“We want to try a different approach and structure to the one that was played in earlier times. Despite us losing our previous match, fans were happy with the style of play against a strong team like Curacao and our intention shall remain the same against Thailand,” he said.
He touched upon the positives the team drew from the Curacao match, including the fact that six players made their debut in the game. Stimac stated, “We had six players make their debuts for India on Wednesday, which is fantastic for Indian football. The introduction of youngsters is important and they are our real strength.”
The Croatian continued, “I want to awaken the hearts of the Indian people and want my team to play in a way that fans can enjoy. Results may suffer at the start but what is important is that we have a positive environment.”
Centre-back Sandesh Jhingan, who played a pivotal role in India’s previous win against Thailand in January, mentioned that while the 4-1 victory was great, the upcoming encounter will be a different ballgame altogether.
“It was a great result for us in the AFC Asian Cup but now, things have changed on both sides and this game will be a different one. We shall step on to the pitch tomorrow with the right character and determination, play according to our plan and hopefully, get the right result,” the defender said.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who was among the six debutants against Curacao, added that the “team will have to be at its 100 per cent” against the hosts.
“We defeated Thailand in the AFC Asian Cup, so we have a good chance against them this time around too. However, we cannot take things easy and continue putting in the hard yards. They are the hosts and will have good home support so we have to be at our 100 per cent.”
Thailand’s Supachai Chaided, who played in his side’s loss to the Blue Tigers in the UAE, stated that he hopes his team will make home advantage count this time. He said, “India is still a strong team and it is extremely important for us to play with full concentration. This time, we will have the home advantage and we hope to make use of it to get the right result.”
Stimac also mentioned that he plans to give chances to the players who did not feature against Curacao. “I treat all players the same and all of them have been working hard since we got together. I want to see everyone on the pitch and each of them deserves a chance to prove themselves. Tomorrow, I shall give chances to other players as well so that we have harder selection decisions to make in the future,” he said.
He continued, “I have told my players that we are going to continue to follow our way of work. We are still in the early stages and there is no fear of getting results at this time. It’s important for us to be free of injury concerns so that we can continue our preparation ahead of the Hero Intercontinental Cup in India. I’m sure other coaches will agree – everyone wants to win but no one wants to have headaches after the game.”
With hopes of winning silverware at the tournament over, both teams will look to get a positive result which wold give a much-needed boost to their depleted rankings ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in September.