We just want to put our best foot forward because we really want to win: India captain Sunil Chhetri
Indian men’s football ball team captain Sunil Chhetri stated that his team really wants to win and qualify for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 on Tuesday when they will be up against the table toppers Hong Kong at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
The Blue Tigers' final qualification game is also likely to be their most challenging. That's because India's next opponents, like them, are unblemished. The Group D final round match between the top two teams will determine who advances to the Asian Cup 2023 as group winner. Even the team in second place has a good chance of making it to the Asian Cup.
The Indian team going into the game in the best possible form as they have won both their qualifying games so far, with skipper and talisman, Sunil Chhetri scoring three goals so far – showing just why he is so vital for them. Once again, all hopes for qualification would be relying on him.
Ahead of an all-important clash against the Hong Kong side, the Blue Tigers’ captain Chhetri addressed the media during the official pre-match press conference.
Here are the excerpts from the captain’s press conference:
In the last game, you guys scored in the last minutes of the match. So, what preparation is going on for the Hong Kong game?
Yeah, I think we're just going to try our best to continue from where we left. Because at the starting of the tournament, the head coach had made very sure that we are playing a tournament that we want to win. There's a big prize at the end of it, which is the qualification for the Asia Cup. Even though we have done good in the last few games, we haven't achieved anything. We have kept all those things aside and just focused on one game. We need to do well, so we can qualify.
When you know you had late goals and stuff and you have only two days for recovery. How does a team recover after such an exciting game?
I think adding to that the players' mentality on the player side is to make sure we forget. We do this a lot when we have a bad game, we try our best to do it also in the game. Forget what has happened because no one to help us on Tuesday. Apart from all the technical parts that were already mentioned, we want to make sure, we start fresh and make sure we know exactly what happening. Whatever is happening the last two games it doesn't help us in this game. It's a very big, very important game. And we just want to put our best foot forward because we really want to win.
Sunil, you played a lot of matches and tournaments for the national team. Is this tournament special for you as you’re playing with the new generation?
So, the specialty of this tournament is if we win Tuesday’s game. We’re going to qualify for Asian Cup. It has only happened two times before when we have played a qualifier and we qualified for the Asian Cup and that is brilliant. It is something that we aspire to be at. When you go to Asia Cup, which is the World Cup for Asian teams, it's an unbelievable feeling. So that is the specialty of this tournament.
I'm not sure whether the specialty has got anything to do with me being 37. I'm being honest, it's not even a joke. Me being 37, or Suresh being 20 does not help us in terms of the specialty of this tournament itself. But it's very, very special because we want to win this tournament. And we want to go to the Asian Cup. We were there at Asia Cup the last time and we know the feeling to rub shoulders with the best in Asia is what we want to do. So that's the plan. And that is why this tournament is very, very special for us.
You guys are playing three matches in seven days. How difficult is it for players to recover?
For me, it’s okay. I'm the fittest guy on the team, further I'm not sure. That's what the coach said. It is difficult. But we have a very, very able coaching staff, especially the medical staff, they're working day and night. Even yesterday, Gigi, George, and the whole team slept at 2 am making sure that they fix everyone who needs fixing. But at the end of the day, the headache is his because he has to choose the first eleven. But we are going to make sure we all are available. Whoever comes and you saw what happens when the change boys come and they and they make a difference. So, everything is good. Right now, our goal is to make sure that we are fit to eat when we sleep at the time and be available for selection.
For over a decade the only name constant with the Indian football team is Sunil Chhetri. This is the third time you are on the verge of qualifying for the Asian Cup. So, and how do you look at each tournament you participated in?
It has been a brilliant journey. I've already spoken. And I've also said that it's an honour to play for the country for 17 years. It is not very common. Not only in my country but around the world. I feel very good to be a part of this team. Because of the kind of competition, we have in the team. And the way they encourage each other, especially me, the stakes are really high. You have to be really on your toes to make sure that you match your shoulders with this lot. It's a great team to be at. So that's the first specialty of this team and I'm enjoying it. And that's about it.