Sharjah: Stephen Constantine resigned as the head coach of the Indian football team after they crashed out of the AFC Asian Cup here on Monday.
India needed a draw against Bahrain in their final group match to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time ever in their history.
However, their hearts were broken in in cruel fashion as an 89th-minute penalty from Jamal Rashed handed Bahrain all three points.
Immediately after the defeat, Constantine announced that he has decided to step down from his position.
“Stephen Constantine is stepping down after this game. I was here for four years. My objective from day 1 was to qualify for the Asian Cup. I have done that and we have broken a few records.
“I am proud of the players for what they have given. I have to thank the AIFF for the support. My cycle has finished. It’s time for me to move on,” he told reporters at the post-match press conference.
India got off to a flying start with an emphatic 4-1 win over Thailand. But defeats to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain saw them finish last in their group.
Constantine took over as the coach of the Indian team in 2015 in his second stint and managed to guide them into the Asian Cup after a hiatus of eight years.
Earlier, Constantine had coached India from 2002 to 2005.
Under Constantine, India broke into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings last year from the 173rd spot in 2015.
“I am bitterly disappointed. To go out in the 90th minute due to a penalty is really tough. The boys gave everything.
“We perhaps did not create enough chances as we did in the previous two games. We go home,” the coach said reflecting on the game.
Asked what was the thought behind starting Rowlin Borges in place of Anirudh Thapa, he explained: “Borges is one of the best passers of the ball in India. When he gets on the ball, he can create things in terms of getting the ball out to Udanta and Hali. Also, Thapa had a back injury, it wasn’t a major injury. We just thought Borges would give us fresh legs.”
Constantine stressed that India did not deserve to bow of the competition so early after their brave brand of football.
“I don’t think we deserved to go out of the group. The boys have exceeded expectations. Unlucky we could not score 3-4 against the UAE.”