Ahead of India’s first AFC Asian Cup match against Thailand at the Al Nahyan Stadium in the United Arab Emirates, coach Stephen Constantine said that his young side is eager for the tournament to kick off.

“The players are really looking forward to the opening match, and so am I. We can’t wait for the game to kick-off. It’s time for the show,” the Coach stressed. “We have a really young team. I wish they perform to their abilities. I’m sure we’ll do fine.”

This is India’s fourth participation in the AFC Asian Cup, the last being in Doha in 2011. On the other hand, Thailand’s best result in the tournament came in 1972 when they finished third. Since then, they have failed in the group stage on five occasions. India had finished second in the 1964 edition of the AFC Asian Cup.

Oman, who were held to a goalless draw by India, got the better of Thailand three days back in a friendly fixture played in Abu Dhabi.

But Constantine didn’t read much into those results. “They are different teams with a different set of players. Oman were trying out different players, and so were Thailand,” he said.

“Thailand are a very good side and they are not to be underestimated at all. We’re in no position to underestimate anybody. We have to take one game at a time. We’ll give everything we have as we have continued to do in the last four years. We’ll obviously do our best to get the result that we need,” he added.

“We need the support of our Indian friends from Abu Dhabi and all over the UAE,” the coach said. “It’s not every day you go and see the Indian national team play in the Asian Cup, and now it’s at your doorstep. This is a huge event as well as a huge opportunity for the Indians to see their national team play at the highest stage in the continent.”

“Personally, it’s a proud moment for me to lead India to the Asian Cup. It has been a long, difficult road which took more than three years to get here. AIFF believed in me and allowed me to continue,” he said.

“The 1-0 win against the Kyrgyz Republic at home was something special. Apart from that, beating Myanmar in Myanmar after 64 years was a great result for us. It was the opening game of the final qualifying round. The result gave us the confidence to go forward.”

India played 18 matches – most by any team – to cement their place in the AFC Asian Cup.