Soukup praises Bahrain determination
Sharjah: Bahrain head coach Miroslav Soukup praised his charges for their fighting spirit after the dramatic win over India saw them progress into the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Monday.
Bahrain dominated the match from the start but failed to find the net going into the break at the Sharjah Stadium. But a late penalty strike from Jamal Rashed and with the United Arab Emirates-Thailand tie ending 1-1, the outcome was in Soukup’s side’s favour.
Bahrain leap-frogged Stephen Constantine’s India to claim third place on four points, confirming them as one of the best four third-placed teams who will advance to the Round of 16.
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“I am very proud because we know their (India) style of play from previous matches. They are very strong in counter attacks and my players were ready for that," said Soukup, 53.
“This is the first time in the tournament my players followed my instructions to the tee and we played exactly like in training. It was an amazing game today, we created many chances and didn’t give India any space.”
Bahrain’s win has set up a meeting with the winners of either Group B or C and the Czech coach praised his players for their focus and determination.
“My players really had the belief that they were stronger than the opponents and we played well. They believed they would score even until the final minute.
“Two times in a row, we were unlucky with penalties (against UAE and Thailand). Thank God for the penalty, it was our lucky day today."
“Thank you to the Bahrain team and especially the Bahrain spectators. They’ve sent us encouraging messages on social media and that helped us a lot. They showed up today and that means a lot for us."
“India were thinking too much about the draw. Our team was faster and we pushed even when we were under pressure. But respect to the Indian team. They defended well and especially their goalkeeper (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu). He made many saves during the match.”
Meanwhile, Constantine - who announced his resignation after the match - expressed his disappointment at India missing out, blaming the lack of luck for his side’s exit.
“It’s a bitter disappointment. To lose from a 90th minute penalty is really tough. The boys gave everything in these last three games and I don’t think we created as much as we normally do,” said the 56-year-old.
“It’s a startling reality. We are out when we came here to qualify into the next round. In the beginning, just being here was more that what people expected from us.”
India were second in the table before their match against Bahrain and only needed a draw to progress. Despite UAE-Thailand game heading for a 1-1 stalemate, the Blue Tigers were still on track until they were hit in the final minute of the match.
“The boys are gutted, they played well and we didn’t intentionally set out for a draw but Bahrain started with a lot of energy and we were a little unlucky not to hold out for another three or five minutes.
“As the game wore on, our inexperience showed a little and they (Bahrain) started defending deeper into our half and we got punished for that.”
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