Sharjah: Clock had struck 90th minute mark. India were just moments from creating history. It was a dreadfully long game for the Blue Tigers as Bahrain kept relentlessly attacking throughout the second half and India hadn't seen much of the ball. Just as the official was about to display the added time, Pronay Halder, Captain of the team on the night, brought down a Bahrain attacker inside the box and the worst possible nightmare turned true. Referee pointed to the spot.
And this was how India just couldn't manage to rewrite some old records. What was visibly an easy task for India after 4-1 rout of Thailand in the first game turned out to be the only thing India couldn't manage to do, to make it into the round of 16.
Millions of hearts broke, of course because a lot was expected from the Indian Constantine resigned. But the loss in Sharjah has at least given out a strong signal to the stakeholders of Indian football- "It's not easy!". A grand palace is never built overnight. Those which are, are of paper.
Under Stephen Constantine, the team managed to improve a lot over the years,since he took over India managed to maintain a winning streak, qualified for the Asian Cup. But there was something that was yet amiss, probably the most important of all - the quality.
India's win record during Constantine's era, although impressive, said a whole different story when looked at by the stats. India never managed to hold lion's share of possession, and were tactically outclassed in almost every encounter. Only individual brilliances at crucial moments, helped a defensive India to win games.
India's losses against the UAE and Bahrain is a testimony of the fact that while India has come a long way in terms of individual performances, the team yet needs a tactical boost. And thankfully, Stephen's resignation months before the World Cup qualifiers, will now give the AIFF think tank an opportunity to mend things. A blessing in disguise!