Indian men’s football defender Anwar Ali is happy to be to playing in an era which he believes is a golden one for the country. The Blue Tigers created history on Tuesday when they defeated Hong Kong by 4-0 in the final group match of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

The 25-years-old played a key role in the Indian defence. With the help of him and the other defenders, the Blue Tigers conceded only one goal in the tournament. India also topped in Group D and registered themselves in history books by making their back-to-back appearances in the AFC Asian Cup. 

The Indian centre-back while speaking to The Times of India said, “I am still young and I really look forward to being a part of Indian football’s golden era now. I am really happy about how we have been approaching the matches,”.

Ali against Hong Kong, he was among the goal scorers along with Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh, and Ishan Pandita. The defender who was out of football for a long period of time has been exceptional since his return. Only in his sixth match in the blue colors, he scored a goal for India.

"I am very happy scoring my first goal for the country. It was a team game and the credit goes to everyone involved," the 25-year-old defender said.

Another youngster, Sahal Abdul Samad, who played a vital role in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers believes domestic tournaments like Durand Cup and Hero ISL would help in the preparation of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, he said, "As players, we all need game time. The longer the season is, the better a player gets. That gets you into the rhythm for football."

Ishfaq Ahmed, a former India player who is now an assistant coach at Kerala Blasters, where Sahal plays in the Hero ISL, believes that one of the most important takeaways from the qualification campaign was the growth of new players in the national squad.

"When you see the likes of Jeakson (Singh), Akash (Mishra), Roshan (Singh) stepping their game up after the team management put their faith on them to start ahead of other experienced players, it shows how the youngsters have now formed the core of the national team. Even Sunil (Chhetri) was jumping in the dugout once Ishan (Pandita) scored the final goal against Hong Kong. That shows the team spirit this lot currently have," Ishfaq said in a live twitter podcast hosted by Indian Super League.