India’s performance in the AFC Asian Cup will have a tremendous positive impact on domestic football, according to goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu.
"As many 21 out of the 23 players in the team were playing at such a stage for the first time. That is itself a big achievement. The good showing in such a premier and prestigious tournament will have huge impact on Indian football," the ace goalkeeper said.
"We want to take it from here. It is important for us to deliver on the big stages and we shall do so," Gurpreet said.
"This team can go places if we remain united, and the game plan is in the right place. We are out of the tournament but we can certainly do more than we did,” he stated.
India had begun their campaign with a convincing 4-1 victory over Thailand. But thereafter, the Blue Tigers bowed out in the first round after losing back to back matches against hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
"We were not at our best against Bahrain," he admitted. "I had to make sure that we were in the game till the very last minute. It was difficult physically and mentally as they were coming at us all guns blazing. We fought till the end but fell short."
Gurpreet, who was also a part of the 2011 Asian Cup squad maintained the “team matched their opponents in all the three matches.”
“We fought and there weren't any one-sided games. We matched our opponents every minute and were even better than them on many occasions. We got points on the board, and showed that we could match our opponents,” he opined.
In 2011, India had also lost to Bahrain by a 2-5 margin in the first round.
Meanwhile, Pyari Xaxa’s 68th-minute goal proved to be the winner as Indian women beat Hong Kong by a solitary goal in the second friendly football match.
With the victory, India ended their campaign in Hong Kong, winning both the friendly matches and will now be heading to Indonesia for further challenges.
The Indian women are preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualifiers Round 2, and will now be playing matches against Indonesia next on January 27 and 30.
Head coach Maymol Rocky maintained that both the matches provided her the opportunity to experiment with tactics in a competitive environment.
“We experimented a lot with our tactics. Most importantly, we got the chance to do it against a quality opponent. We wanted to test some permutations and combinations, and our aim was to make the most out of the series in terms of experimenting,” said Maymol.
India had earlier defeated Hong Kong 5-2 in the first friendly match on January 21.
“We knew this match would be different. You cannot expect two back to back high goal scoring games against the same opponents. They (Hong Kong) knew our strengths and kept a compact shape while defending deep,” she explained.
“Our aim was to gather valuable match experience. In terms of development, a 1-0 win aids more as compared to a win by a higher margin,” she added.
Midfielder Sangita Basfore stated that “both the matches served their purpose.”
“While the first match boosted our confidence massively, the second helped us to learn concentration in a high-stress environment,” Sangita felt.
“A winning momentum further helps us boost our confidence. Every team presents its own challenges and so will Indonesia. We are ready and prepared for them,” Maymol added.
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