India football captain Sunil Chhetri says fierce competition for places from the bench and age-group squads will help in developing a strong national side.

The arrival of a new breed of players like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan and Udanta Singh have been a welcome change in the national team, and Chhetri, India’s highest scorer in internationals with 55 goals, rates them highly.

“I will always put my money on them. In fact, I will be very disappointed if the trio doesn’t dominate Indian football for the next decade. I also hope they get tough competition, with the U-17 and the U-16 squads pushing them further. Those batches are showing a lot of promise and doing well for us. The more the youth push their seniors, the better it is for the entire squad,” Chhetri said, according to a PTI report.

The striker felt playing in the 2019 Asian Cup will give the team and the players a fair idea of where they stand.

“Top level of Asian football is today probably just a notch below the global elite. The top 2-3 teams in Asia like Iran, South Korea and Japan are in fact at par. Playing at such levels will help us gauge where we lie as a group as well as individual players vis a vis the top echelons of world football. That’s of paramount importance as Indian football moves forward. The movement forward needs to be a continuous process and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 should be a first stepping stone to that process as we rub shoulders with the best in Asia,” said Chhetri.

He said not qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia remains a regret and it lingers. “I hope the players utilise the opportunities to cement their place in the squad. At the same time there always needs to be a healthy competition from the bench to take the places in the starting XI,” he said.