Experience holds key for a young Indian team at AFC Asian Cup
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan and Subhasish Bose want the team to be ready for their upcoming challenges in the AFC Asian Cup.
The Indian Football Team look set to play in the AFC Asian Cup for the fifth time in their history. Their previous participations came during the 1964, 1984, 2011 and 2019 editions.
The Blue Tigers have never made it past the group stage of the competition except the 1964 edition when it was a round-robin tournament.
There are many players in the current team who have previous experience of playing in the Asian Cup with Sunil Chettri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu being the Indian players in the squad to have played in three editions of the AFC Asian Cup.
When Sandhu played the Asian Cup for the first time in 2011, he shared the dressing room with Indian football legends Baichung Bhutia, Subrata Paul and Renedy Singh. He feels privileged to have played with them and learned a lot during his time with them.
“The experience of sharing the dressing room with the likes of Subrata Paul, Bhaichung Bhutia, Renedy Singh, and all these legends and seeing them at the height of their careers was an absolute joy," Gurpreet said to the-aiff.com.
“I would get pushed around a lot as a young, skinny, lanky keeper. But I was just like a sponge, learning on and off the pitch," he further said.
"Now as one of the senior members of this team, I just share whatever knowledge I have acquired in these years,” he added.
Sandhu feels that there has been a change in the team with new players coming in after the 2011 Asian Cup.
“There’s been a big transition over the years. A lot of the players in 2011 were on the verge of ending their careers, so we had fresh players come in after that,” he said.
“Now we are at a stage where many of the boys have already played an Asian Cup before – Sandesh (Jhingan), Subha (Subhasish Bose), and Anirudh Thapa were all part of the Asian Cup last time and will be playing their second edition this time around," he added.
Sandesh Jhingan is one of the senior members of the national team with past experience playing in the AFC Asian Cup. He played in the 2019 edition of the tournament.
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He reminisced about his initial days in the national team with fellow players Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Amrinder Singh. He feels that playing in the Asian Cup has brought the side closer to the World Cup dream.
“When we had all just come into the national team at that time, Gurpreet, Amrinder (Singh), myself, and we all had a dream to see India in the World Cup one day," Jhingan said to the AIFF.com
"That may still be a distant dream, but being a regular in the Asian Cup is certainly one step closer to it,” he further said.
“I feel we are now at a stage where qualification to the Asian Cup should be normal and that we should not celebrate it, we should instead be looking forward to making it to the next stage, which is to qualify from the group stage onwards,” he added.
Subhasish Bose was another player who has prior experience playing in the AFC Asian Cup. He felt that his side faltered in the last two games in the 2019 edition and feels that this time India have difficult matches ahead.
“We did well in 2019 to win the first game against Thailand but lost the next two games. This time, we have a difficult challenge ahead, but our mentality should be to try and qualify for the knockout round,” Bose told aiff.com
“We have certainly improved a lot as a team in the last few years, and now we want to prove it on the pitch,” he added.