Kolkata: The Indian football team will play Hong Kong at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday in a bid to grab the top spot in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup Qualification Third Round. India’s captain Sunil Chhetri looked really confident ahead of the match and ensured the fans that the home team will qualify for the prestigious tournament.
A finish at the top of the group will ensure India’s qualification in the 2023 Asian Cup for an unprecedented second successive time and fifth overall.
Ahead of the match, Chhetri said, “There is a big prize at the end which is a qualification to the Asian Cup. Even though we have done good in the last two games, we have not achieved anything yet. What we have learnt is to keep everything aside. We just have to focus on the next game, and end the tournament on a positive note.”
He said, “I think we just need to pick up from where we left, because at the start of the tournament, the coach had made sure that we played the tournament to win. The speciality of this tournament is that if we win tomorrow’s game, we qualify for the Asian Cup 2023. We were there at the Asian Cup the last time in 2019, and we know the feeling — to rub shoulders among the best in Asia is where we want to be.”
The Indian captain also heaped praise on young football players in the country. He named some top young players to watch out for.
Chhetri remarked, “I’m telling you good things are going to happen with this team. Slowly and steadily, they are understanding what they have to do. The likes of Akash, Jeakson, Suresh, Anwar – just imagine what they will be able to do once they get 10-20 caps under their belt.”
With two wins each, both teams have six points but Hong Kong are ahead of the hosts on goal difference. India’s head coach Igor Stimac revealed that there is no pressure among the Indian players.
Stimac said, “We will train and then decide who is to be rested and who will start against Hong Kong. But whom do you pick and who do you leave out? This is my main worry, and I love this worry. I love this kind of headache you know – it’s a pleasant one, a wonderful one.”
“Obviously there is less pressure on us to win this game but the hunger and motivation remain the same. We need to go out and start playing the way we did against Afghanistan to win this game,” he concluded.