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AFC Asian Cup 2019: Pronay Halder bullish about India's chances of reaching knockout stage

10:08 PM EST 1/4/19
Pronay Halder India
The defensive midfielder speaks to Goal ahead of India's opener against Thailand...

Pronay Halder has been booked on four occassions in the current edition of Indian Super League (ISL). The stocky defensive midfielder gives his all on the pitch and sometimes is notorious for picking up bookings. He is not afraid to put his body on the line and lunges into bone-tickling challenges in midfield which often gets him into the referee's book.

"One who plays gets booked. The player who is on the bench does not get booked. I play and therefore I get booked. I have been trying to not get booked for my challenges and have been practicing for the same. The coach lets me know if I pick a reckless booking. I am trying to rectify it. But it will take time as it is a long process.

"Stephen (Constantine) Sir has helped me a lot. My positioning sense has sharpened a lot under his guidance. Communicating with the defence has also improved. I have learned a lot from the coach," told Halder to Goal.

He minces no words and makes it clear that progressing to the next round is the primary target for India.

"We have to qualify from our group. That is our primary target. We have been placed in a relatively easier group than in 2011. Although we respect all our opponents, we have a good team and we believe in ourselves to progress to the next round."

Halder is one of the senior players in the team whereas his partners in midfield in the likes of Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh have just started their international careers. But the former Mohun Bagan player feels that there is no extra responsibility on his shoulders as both his compatriots are mature and he can even learn a thing or two from them as well.

"Everyone in the team has the responsibility to do their best. If I play in the first team then I have to keep Thapa's back and vice-versa. Everyone has to take extra responsibility to help us qualify. There is no senior or junior in football. When I was in Dempo I used to motivate Peter Carvalho. I am willing to listen to Thapa if he tells me something which will help me motivate myself."

The ATK midfielder will draw inspiration from the results against China, Jordan and Oman as he thinks that the team's performances against those two teams have been a morale booster before the continental showpiece.

"We have played against tough opponents in the run-up to the tournament which has helped us a lot. Most of the critics were saying that we would lose against China. But we had belief in ourselves that we can keep a clean sheet. Before playing Jordan, we suffered a lot due to travel issues. But still, we managed to create a lot of chances. We could have drawn that match as well.

"We remained unbeaten for 14 straight matches which boosted our confidence a lot. And definitely, the performance against China, Oman and Jordan also has also helped us to be more confident," signed off the midfield linchpin.