India eye AFC Asian Cup qualification


India have secured direct qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup as a result of their 4-1 win over Macau in the qualifier played at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium at Bangaluru, on Wednesday evening. Gaining three more points will be as good as ensuring a plane to the UAE in 2019 to participate in the AFC Asian Cup.

This is only the fourth time in Asian Cup history that India will be making an appearance.

India competed in the tournament for the first time in 1964, when they finished runners-up. Earlier, the hosts were stunned in the opening session after Nicholas Mario Tarrao struck a historic goal for Macau. India are top-placed in Group A with nine points from three matches. Balwant's build and tenacity makes him the ideal attacking player to unlock the expectedly dogged Macau defence, as he did in the first leg, coming on as a second-half substitute and bagging a brace in India's 2-0 win.

In the 2011 edition that was held in Doha, India had a disappointing campaign, losing all their group matches - to Australia, South Korea and Bahrain. But we can't afford to sit and celebrate for long. The goal we conceded was against the run of play.

Before Jeje could set it up, Narayan Das whipped in a low cross from the left. Chetri put India ahead 2-1 after he capitalised on a sloppy defensive play. Jeje took it in near the halfway line and sent Balwant clear.

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The ball was blocked by a Macau defender but Jeje pounced on the rebound and picked out Borges at the top of the box.

India were lucky to have got the third strike through a self goal after Lam Seng's attempted clearance turned into disaster as the ball looped over the goalkeeper and went in.

Balwant clearly had an impact on the game as his clever running of the channels had the Macanese defenders scampering all over and India started to find a lot of space.

India come into this match on a 11-match unbeaten streak and have recorded 1-0 victories against Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic.

The hosts continued to apply the pressure which led to Macau conceding the third goal.

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Chetri was happy that India would be playing in the Asian Cup after missing out in 2015.

"I have to say that we got there in the end". This is the tournament we play for.

The head coach further insisted that the current team was surely one of the best Indian teams in history.

Chetri lauded his teammates for their performance. It's just the starting of the hard work. Till then it was mostly one-way traffic - in pouring rain - as Macau battled hard to keep the Indians at bay.

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