(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Both United Arab Emirates and India know a win today for either side will mean inching ever closer to the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
That sets the stage for an exciting battle as the UAE, expected to be backed by a capacity crowd at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, look to bounce back with a win after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bahrain in their Group A opener on Saturday. For India, another three points would surely mean a place in the Round of 16 after their impressive 4-1 victory over Thailand on Matchday One.
UAE head coach Alberto Zaccheroni described his team's mission as a make or break game. 'We had a meeting with the players after the Bahrain game and discussed our strengths and weaknesses. What I saw from the players has made me very confident that they will play very well, he said. 'This is a make or break game for us and we will start the match against India with the intention of winning. We will do our best even though I know we will face difficulties.
India's win over Thailand, said Zaccheroni, proves just how much Asian football has developed. 'Eight years ago, there were maybe eight Asian teams ranked in the top 100. Now we have 17 teams. The opening round of the AFC Asian Cup has also showed us that there were no easy games.
'India are a very compact team and we know they will look to play on the counter-attack. They did so well against Thailand and I am sure they will be confident when facing us. However, I can assure you that there will be a lot of passion and desire to win in my team, more than what was shown in the match against Bahrain, declared the Italian who led Japan to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup title.
Passion and desire will also be in abundance in the Indian team, who ended a 55-year wait for a win at the AFC Asian Cup by defeating Thailand. It is a win that has excited their fans, and head coach Stephen Constantine said his team was looking forward to the UAE match.
'It is going to be a belter, for sure. UAE will aim to win but so will we. We did well against Thailand and the boys are highly motivated to do the same again, explained Constantine, who had confidently claimed going into the tournament that India's wait for a win would end in UAE 2019.
Constantine said progressing to the knockout stage is something Indian football must expect. 'When I was told that we had not won in 55 years at the AFC Asian Cup, my reaction was this is not right. When I took over as coach of India in 2015, I said we would qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. 'Now we have done that and our next target must be advancing to the knockout stage.
The three points against Thailand puts India at an advantage with 16 teams advancing to the knockout stage but Constantine said he is looking for nothing but a win against the UAE. 'I would love nine points but six should take us through, maybe even three but that is not what we are looking at. We are looking to win.
In other matches today, Bahrain take on Thailand, while Jordan face Syria.