Seeded first in this year’s tournament and currently sitting at 82 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, Curacao proved too much for 101st ranked India, cruising to a comfortable 3-1 victory to open up the 2019 King’s Cup tournament in Thailand.
The CONCACAF representative only needed 16 minutes to break the match’s scoreless tie, which came courtesy of a Roly Bonevacia goal and Gevaro Nepomuceno assist. Just two minutes thereafter, Curacao doubled its lead following an Elson Hooi strike in the 18th minute.
However, the Blue Tigers refused to back down as Captain Sunil Chhetri found the back of the net with a penalty kick in the 31st minute to cut India’s deficit to only a single goal. The score, Chhetri’s 69th for his country, came in a milestone match as he surpassed Bhatchung Bhutia for most international appearances in India’s football history with 108 caps.
In keeping up with the match’s first half scoring flurry, Curacao quickly answered back with a Leandro Bacuna goal just three minutes later, pushing its lead back to two and restoring order. No further goals were had for the remainder of the contest, advancing Curacao to the finale in the single elimination format tournament.
The Caribbean nation’s victory served as a rude welcome back for India, who was making their first appearance in the tournament after a 38-year absence. It also spoiled the debut of new head coach Igor Stimac.
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