Thapa speaks of new role as well as India’s serious intentions going into Doha qualifiers

The Indian national team is currently in Doha sweating it out in the preparatory camp ahead of their remaining three matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. The Blue Tigers take on Qatar first on June 3 and then come Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15) along the way.

The last time India played Qatar was in September 2019 in what the first leg of their match-up in Group E. Their clash in Qatar had ended in a goalless draw. With three points from five games in the group, India are already out of contention for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, however, they can still qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

Midfielder Anirudh Thapa spoke to the AIFF Media team in the lead-up to the encounter at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha and made it clear that the Blue Tigers were determined to put up a good show.   

“That was some 18 months back [their last match against Qatar]. It’s a different situation right now. But we understand that Qatar are eagerly looking forward to the match. But we know that we will try to do good on the field. We don’t want to be disappointed. We are not here to make up the numbers. We are confident in our abilities and we are taking it one match at a time,” he said.

The Chennaiyin FC star also spoke about how his role in the team has changed in recent times with the arrival of so many new youngsters. It may be noted that as many as 10 Indian players had debuted against Oman earlier this year in Dubai.

“My role has changed. There are many young players coming in and challenging everyone. My job is to guide them as to what is expected from them in the national team set-up. You just cannot be selfish and just help yourself. You need to think about others too,” he said.

Going on to elaborate, he said: “The set-up in the national team is a different feeling altogether. Starting from the pride to the game sense to the tempo and intensity of the training sessions, and eventually the matches – whatever I have learnt, I share with them. At the end, we are representing 1.4 billion people and they are never to be let down.”

The 23-year-old also brought to light some aspects of his game that need some attention. “I need to convert more chances. Vision wise, I know I can do better. I need to be adept to the changing playing circumstances that arise during the match.

“For example, there may be phases where we need to play direct football during the match. I need to push up front a bit more to help increase the numbers. But then, it should never be coming at the cost of me leaving a vacant hole in the midfield. I am learning how to balance it. I need to watch my back and go up,” he said.

 

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