Kolkata: Sunil Chhetri, the talismanic captain of Indian football team, feels that the three qualifers for Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China will be ‘‘extremely tough’’ and they will have to take one match at a time. A 28-member squad are scheduled to leave for Doha from New Delhi later on Wednesday for the matches, scheduled to be played from June 3.
“The matches in June are extremely tough and we need to take them one at a time. Given the fact that we don’t have much time, the preparatory camp will add immense value helping all to gel together and strike that chord ahead of the first match,” said the long serving Indian captain, who had to miss an exposure trip to the UAE earlier this year as he was then recovering from a bout of COVID-19.
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India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha. Among the 28 named for the camp, Glan Martins remains the sole player to have made it to a National team camp for the first-time ever.
“It’s such a relief to be back in the national team squad – after all, home is where the heart is. Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to being in Doha. The last time I was in Doha, I couldn’t be a part of the match against Qatar owing to illness,” Chhetri, who has 72 international goals to his name, told AIFF.com.
“Doha has always had an emotional connection with me. It was there that I played in the 2011 Asian Cup and also the AFC Cup final for my club Bengaluru FC.”
It’s not an ideal situation as we move ahead to the Qualifiers in June. Due to the pandemic, our national camp which was slated to begin in Kolkata at the beginning of May had to get cancelled. The pandemic also robbed us of a friendly match in Dubai
All the travelling players and staff carry with them negative test results from the RTPCR tests conducted in the last 48 hours, while all of them were also in isolation in New Delhi under the Bio Bubble at the team hotel from May 15.
Speaking on the eve of their departure, Head Coach Igor Stimac said that although it is not the “ideal situation,” the ‘Blue Tigers’ will be putting in intense sessions before their matches get underway.
“It’s not an ideal situation as we move ahead to the Qualifiers in June. Due to the pandemic, our national camp which was slated to begin in Kolkata at the beginning of May had to get cancelled. The pandemic also robbed us of a friendly match in Dubai,” the former Croatian World Cupper maintained.
“However, we understand the magnitude of the situation and it will be intense sessions in Doha to raise the tempo and try to get ready for the matches which starts with the one against the Asian Champions Qatar in Doha,” Stimac added.
The round of matches is being played in Doha in view of the pandemic situation which doesn’t allow the original format of home-and-away matches. India are currently on three points from three matches in Group E.
June 3: India vs Qatar (9 pm UAE)
June 7: Bangladesh vs India (6 pm)
June 15: India vs Afghanistan (6 pm)
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
Forwards: Ishan Pandit, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.