Pritam Kotal has been a mainstay in the Indian national team for the last couple of years, making the right-back spot his own.
However, he has not been at his best domestically and has struggled in the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) season. With Kotal leading the defence, Delhi Dynamos conceded 21 goals in 12 matches with only Chennaiyin FC recording a worse tally, having shipped in 24. But Kotal is confident that he will bounce back and reproduce the form that we commonly associate with him.
"ISL and national team are entirely two different platforms. I tried to give my best in ISL. I gave my 100per cent in every match. Now my target is to play in the first team and take India to a respectable position in the Asian Cup.
"We have prepared well for the Asian Cup. Our competition started when we faced Oman on December 27. Maybe, the official fixture starts from January 6 but that match was no less important to us, especially because we were facing a strong team. Now we hope for the best in the tournament," told Kotal to Goal.
UAE and Al Hilal star player Omar Abdulrahman sustained a knee injury in a Saudi league match on October 20 and is all but ruled out of the continental tournament taking place on home soil. Although the former Mohun Bagan player thinks that Omar's omission is a relief for the opponents, he quickly added that UAE still remains a formidable side.
"When a player like Omar gets knocked out ahead of such an important tournament it is definitely good news for the opponents. But as a team UAE is pretty strong. Moreover, they are a collectively stong team.
"All our opponents are good teams. We will not make the mistake of taking any team lightly. We have been working on the strengths and weaknesses of those teams," quipped Kotal.
The full-back has a tendency to bomb forward in attack with his overlapping runs. Against China, he got into a goalscoring position but could not keep his shot on target. His combination with Udanta Singh on the right flank will be vital for India.
"We will play against Thailand on January 6 with only one mentality, i.e. to win. Every time we will be taking the pitch in UAE, we will try to win. We will not start on the backfoot. It is the most important tournament for the entire team including the backroom staff. We have been fighting for the past few years to reach here and now we have to do well where it matters the most," signed off Kotal.