AFC Asian Cup 2019: We will have to defend in numbers against Thailand – India captain Sunil Chhetri

India Asian Cup Chhetri

India are facing Southeast Asian giants Thailand in their opening fixture of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and their captain Sunil Chhetri believes his team will have a backs to the wall job against the War Elephants.

Speaking to the Times of India ahead of his team’s return to the continental championship after a gap of eight years, Chhetri hailed Thailand as one of the most improved football teams in Asia over the recent years.

“We are not even thinking about Bahrain and United Arab Emirates (UAE). We are just focusing on our first game against Thailand,” said the 34-year-old Bengaluru FC forward.

“In the last six to eight years, Thailand have been one of the most improved nations in Asia. They have shown how comfortable they are with the ball against big opponents. We have to make sure we defend in numbers and not give them that space,” he said.

Talking about the Blue Tigers’ chances in the tournament, Chhetri said India can pose a challenge to all three teams in Group A of the Asian Cup.

“We have three very different oppositions. None of them would think of India as easy opponents as we have improved tremendously. About Bahrain, I feel they are a very physical side, a bit like Oman,” said the striker who is one of the leading active international goal scorers in the game.

Chhetri also admitted that India are not a team that plays free flowing attacking football while also adding that they are high on confidence heading into the continental showpiece.

“We did well against some tough opponents like Iran, Oman and China recently. Those results have made us confident,” he said.

“We aren’t a team which enjoys a lot of possession and you won’t see us playing attacking football. However, I wouldn’t say our style is defensive. We do give a lot of thought in planning and analysing our opponent.”

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(Photo: All India Football Federation)