Indian men’s football team midfielder Anirudh Thapa has urged his teammates to put in their quality in the team’s performance to elevate the overall level as they begin the third round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers against Cambodia on Wednesday.

Thapa who was part of the Indian team at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, suggested that that the current team has improved a lot in terms of quality of players since their previous appearance in the continental showpiece and believes they can make the cut to the competition again.

Ahead of the third round of qualifiers, Thapa gave an exclusive interview to the ISL Media team.

Here are the excerpts from the interaction.

India have lost each of the three friendly matches ahead of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers. Does that put any psychological pressure?

No it doesn’t. It was just the game for us to stay fit and try different things and give every player a chance to prove himself to be in the team

What improvements are visible in the team now as compared to the 2019 Asian Cup campaign which you were a part of as well.

The team has grown massively, there are many young players in the team with few experienced players as well. The quality has improved in every position and there’s fight everyday for the positions in the team

The last time India played a competitive match at the Salt Lake Stadium they were held to a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh. Will the home support be both advantageous and also create pressure for the upcoming matches?

Kolkata is the hub of Indian football so everyone need to experience that atmosphere that the people creates here and when there are 50000 people on the stands it feels pressure and excitement at the same time and it is one of a lifetime moment for a player to play under such a crowd and atmosphere.

India might have to face teams that defend deep in the qualifiers. How does it change your role as a midfielder given you will have the responsibility of controlling the pace of the match?

That’s where I need to take a step up in my game to control these kinds of matches and bring some quality in the team. And thats what every player has to do to bring the quality in the team and take the teams level up.

What do you make of each of India’s opponents in the group? What different challenges can you expect each of those teams to pose to you?

Each team is a tough opponent. They have foreign players and quality so it won’t be an easy game for us. We respect them and we know what we need to do

You have just signed a new contract with Chennaiyin FC. Will that have a positive impact on you for the qualifiers?

I don’t think anything has change for me after signing a new contract, I know what we have in front of us and what responsibilities I hold when I wear the national team jersey so I am already positive about it and it has nothing to do with my CFC contract in the national team

Having played in an Asian Cup before, does it add to your hunger of qualifying for it again?

Yes, it does because Asian Cup is one of the biggest tournaments I have ever played for the national team and it is a step forward for everyone. And if we can do that again and again then only we can raise the bar so I want to be there again and again