As India prepare to take on Tajikistan in an away friendly to be held in Khujand, Sunil Chhetri is carrying the Blue Tigers’ hope upfront, having previously scored a hat-trick against the side, in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
The player though, has mixed feelings with regards to his encounters with the Tajiks, while stressing that the hat-trick in 2008 is now consigned to the past. He told the-aiff.com, “Yes it does, but there are mixed feelings. At one end there’s the AFC Challenge Cup Final which we won in New Delhi and earned a ticket to the Asian Cup while at the other, there’s the loss to Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu in 2012. I rate them very highly and most importantly they will be playing at Home. But at the end of the day it’s crucial as to how we play and we are here to give our best.”
“Over the years I’ve understood that you need to learn from the debacles as much you need to learn from something good that has happened. You just cannot carry that memory of that match for long as every match is a different one. It’s pertinent not to think about past laurels and debacles as that will never help in your present performance,” he further added.
While he may be quick to consign his hat-trick to history, the Tajiks have not forgotten his feats of 2008, and are expected to pay special attention to him during the game. Chhetri though is not at all phased by this, and mentioned, “The best part of our new Team is that it isn’t about any individual. We are good as a Team and every member of the squad stays aware of it and believes it. As the Captain of the Team it’s important as to how we gel as an unit and play as a Team. It’s best not to pay much attention as to what the opposition has planned for us.”
The Bengaluru FC forward knows that a tough test awaits them in Khujand, and revealed, “The FIFA Rankings say it all. They are 114, we are 145. Whenever we have played against them, they have been very competitive and made it very difficult for us. Undoubtedly they are a very strong side.”
“I reiterate they would be backed by a hostile crowd of 25000 and we all know how home support can charge up any team. It will be a very tough test for us,” he continued.
The forward is also happy with the training camp they have had in Khujand, and infact wished that they had more days to spend practicing with the national team. He opined, “Frankly speaking, it would have been nice to have some more days. The National Camp is always so productive. But that’s the manner international friendlies are played across the Globe. Everyone came directly from the pre-season and since we know everybody well enough, we adapted fast. The Sessions have been enjoyable as much as they have been technical and full of variety.”
Chhetri also spoke of how important the game was in the build-up to the SAFF Championship and even mentioned India’s long win-less streak, away from home.
“International friendlies always give you the right platform to judge as to what an International team would be. Let’s not forget that this is an away Friendly for us and the SAFF Championship which follows, is also an away Tournament. In that sense both the interlinked.”
“We know our record in overseas International friendlies in the recent past have been poor and we have that at the back of our mind,” he concluded.
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