The Sunil Chhetri-led Indian men’s football team has sealed their qualification for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The news was confirmed as the Philippines suffered a 0-4 loss against Palestine in their final group stage fixture earlier today. The Palestinian team had scored twice in each with all different goal scorers.
In their campaign, the Blue Tigers had a rollercoaster ride to qualify for their second consecutive Asian Cup. India first defeated Cambodia in a convincing 2-0 victory. Then Igor Stimac’s team pulled off a miraculous victory over Afghanistan thanks to late goals by Captain Sunil Chhetri and Sahal Samad.
The Indian team will now face Hong Kong in their next game of the qualifier. Addressing this fixture, Coach Stimac has expressed that the team will look to test its bench strength and give chance to youngsters. While speaking at the official pre-match official press conference, he 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,” Stimac continued.
Indian team captain Sunil Chhetri talked about how the team is focused to win against Hong Kong without reminiscing about their last two games.
He said, “There is a big prize at the end which is 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. 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.”