India goalkeeper Gurpeet Singh Sandhu oozed confidence ahead of their AFC Asian Cup 2019 Group A opener against Thailand in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking on the eve of the game, the 26-year-old said, "I think we are feeling really motivated because playing for the country is always special. Specially coming to the Asian Cup, we have worked really hard to be here. We will try to put up our best show possible."
Sandhu was also part of the India squad in 2011 in their last Asian Cup participation. However, the Indian custodian didn't play a single minute in the competition back then.
"We are really excited to be back in the Asian Cup again. I think it is a good challenge tomorrow. We will play for a win. The boys are ready. It's a huge moment as a player and as a professional, I would not let the occasion get over me. I was lucky enough to be part of the team in 2011.
"For sure that experience helped me a lot. To see the legends of the national team play and to be in the same dressing room was special. At that point in time, I wanted to play and contribute to Indian Football. Now I am in a position where I can do that and I want to carry that forward and make sure whatever is needed from me, I will do that both on and off the pitch," he commented.
The Bengaluru FC custodian stressed on the importance of looking ahead rather than sulking on past failures when it comes to Asian Cups as India lost all three of its group games in 2011.
"We have to move on from that and make sure we concentrate on the challenge ahead - the three games in front of us, by being a collective group. In 2011, the team and the group we were in was different.
"We are concentrating on the challenge ahead and we have a team which has proved in the last four years that it can win. We are not an easy team to play against. We will try to be positive and stay consistent in the group stages, forget what happened in the past and take it from there," he said.
With the average age of the current squad just 25, the Punjab-born pointed that it is one of the major differences between the squads of Bob Houghton in 2011 and Stephen Constantine's batch of 2019.
"The boys are young. The kind of football we played back then was different. In 2011, we had players who were in the latter stages of their career. In this national team, you have players that are hungry and want to do well."
In 2011, veteran goalkeeper Subrata Paul was busy in between the sticks as India conceded 13 goals in three games. Sandhu stated that he had a lot to learn from Paul's experience.
"His guidance has been important throughout the years. His contribution is something that I envy and I hope we don't face that many challenges as we did in 2011 and as a goalkeeper, I would love to have that.
"I hope we avoid situations from much farther than the goal and we are a stronger team to play against," he concluded.