Wanted to show our courage: Sandesh
Chennai: The Indian team, despite its consistent surge over the past few months, had shown the tendency of letting in late goals that proved calamitous for the team. Even in their first World Cup qualifier against Oman in Guwahati, it was the same, but on Tuesday, Sandesh Jhingan & Co. turned things around. They fought bravely against Qatar even as the World Cup hosts kept increasing the pressure and came back with a point.
Jhingan, who stood firm and helped maintain the shape of the defence, felt “playing fearlessly” was the key in Doha. “We literally stopped playing in the second half against Oman. That was something we didn’t want to repeat. I’ll put my hand up for that. It all starts from me, to play out from the back. That was the difference against Qatar. ‘Keep playing the way you are, minimise the individual errors, stick to the system, and just stay focused’ were Stimac’s motivating words. We knew that whatever the result is, we’d still continue to play, keep the ball. The plan was to play without fear, try to score and have a positive attitude. It wasn’t easy. But we managed to do that and created some chances as well,” Jhingan, who made his debut against Nepal back in 2015, told TOI from Doha.
India defended with heart and passion and when there was the occasional slip, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood tall. “We often communicated about potential threats. We were trying not to give them a chance to score. If they do something spectacular, then you can’t really do much about it except to appreciate it. But we wanted to show our courage. We did not just want to sit back and fight for our lives. We needed to keep our shape, stick to the basics, and not commit mistakes,” the Kerala Blasters defender said.
In a departure from previous coach Stephen Constantine’s long-ball style, India have been playing a possessionbased game under Stimac where the attack is built from the back. Sandesh said India could implement the new style because they have got players with the right mindset. “We are trying to play a different brand of football. So it does get messed up at times. But you have to look at the positives. It’s all about having the right mindset and the courage. We’ve wanted to play it short and we have the quality to do that. Hopefully, we’ll get better in the next two games and get more points on the board. We have been in the shadows now for too many years. But all the players believe that we can make a difference, so that people see India as footballing giants in the future,” he said.
ROAR OF A LION: Sandesh Jhingan with the Tricolour