India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu feels the team has moulded itself into a battle-hardened unit but it still needs to find the back of the net consistently to improve its winning ratio in big international matches.
On a high after holding Asian champion Qatar to a goalless draw, a struggling India escaped with a 1-1 draw against lower-ranked Bangladesh in their previous 2022 FIFA World second-round qualifying match in Kolkata.
“I think, of late, we have turned ourselves into a team which is tough to beat. We just have to add something more to it which is scoring to get the points on the table and we have that quality,” Gurpreet told PTI during a chat.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri had promised to put their best foot forward in the upcoming qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman, Gurpreet also said they will have to get something substantial out of the two matches.
“Both games are difficult. Oman are a very good side and have quality players, whereas Afghanistan will be tough to play against in Tajikistan. But we have to go there with a strong approach to get something out of the two games,” the country’s first-choice goalkeeper said.
Gurpreet said coach Igor Stimac has been smart in introducing a host of new faces.
“We have grown stronger with the introduction of the young players who will improve with time.”
While Chhetri felt the team is still far from fully implementing coach Stimac’s vision, Gurpreet said they are gradually getting accustomed to his philosophy.
“Yes, the team is getting accustomed with the system but most importantly getting used to each other as well playing with the ball.”
India endured a disastrous campaign in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, including a shock loss to tiny Pacific nation Guam, and Gurpreet said the team has come a long way from those days.
“I think if we compare it with the 2015 qualifiers that we played, we have come a long way since then. We have two points on the table and have only lost one game which also we could have won. I am happy but not satisfied because I know we have the potential to do more.”
Yet to taste a win in the ongoing qualifiers, India are scheduled to play Afghanistan on November 14 and Oman on November 20.
Having squandered a one-goal advantage to lose 1-2 to Oman in their opener at home, India held fancied Qatar in Doha before the underwhelming result against Bangladesh in Kolkata.