Thirteen years ago in Guangzhou, India's men footballers made it to the pre-quarter finals of the Asian Games for the last time before bowing to Japan.
The 2010 feat was repeated on Sunday again, and in China only, though the venue this time was Hangzhou, where India withstood a strong challenge from Myanmar to make the grade with a 1-1 draw.
With four points from three matches, India have earned the right to face mighty Saudi Arabia in the round of 16 on Thursday.
Head coach Igor Stimac is happy to have earned a berth, though he feels his team could have walked out with full points. “It was an interesting game and was fought hard.”
“I am happy that we could make the last-16 under circumstances that were not always in our favour. All credit goes to the boys for playing with such determination. We could have killed the game earlier as we missed some chances,” rued the coach.
“The biggest positive from the three matches was that I could spot a few boys who could be part of the National team in the near future.
“They have performed creditably in the three
matches here so far. That’s a always great takeaway for a coach,” Stimac said from Hangzhou.
Stimac heaped praise on Chhetri who has played 270 minutes in the ongoing Asiad with two goals to his credit. “Chhetri played the entire duration of the three matches because he wanted to, he didn’t want to come out.
“That’s what my captain is. His commitment is amazing,” the head coach said.
“We can now concentrate on the Saudi Arabia game. We can now have two days of good training. Saudi are a good team, all of us know it. But we will fight it out on the pitch. We surprised a lot of people by reaching the last 16,” Stimac said.