Time to focus on Bangladesh match, says goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu

Kolkata: Indian team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on Saturday said it’s time to move on from their much-talked-about the draw against Qatar and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifier against lowly Bangladesh.

The Asian champions Qatar peppered India’s goal but Sandhu, captaining the side in Sunil Chhetri’s absence, remained unnerved, making 11 saves as India held the 2022 World Cup hosts at their home venue in a remarkable draw last month.

“I expected to win (against Qatar). I don’t think it’s a dream show. It was my job. I played more difficult games but that never came into light maybe because we lost those games,” Gurpreet said in a media interaction after the team’s arrival in Kolkata ahead of Tuesday’s Group E clash.

“It’s not that it’s a game that we never played before. It was just that against good opposition. It’s time to move on and replicate that in future,” the hero of the goalless draw said.

Sandhu hoped the confidence gained from the Qatar game will help the youngsters against a team like Bangladesh, who is ranked 83 places below India. “It helped a lot of young players to get self-confidence. A lot of players got the chance after a long break be it Mandar Rao Desai, Nikhil Poojary, Manvir Singh. All of them played after a long time and that too against a team like Qatar. We truly believe in them and hopefully, they can provide us in games like Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh has come here on the back of a 0-2 loss at home to Qatar. “No team can be taken lightly. Bangladesh plays with confidence and heart. We need to make sure we play to our strength and make fewer mistakes. Play as a team and try to get the result,” he said.

India suffered an injury blow to their star defender Sandesh Jhingan days ahead of the match but the 27-year-old firmly believes that team gaffer Igor Stimac is smart in putting together a squad to fill in any void. “The coach has been very smart from the start. He has got a mixture of young players so that we have those option of competitiveness in every single position. I’m sure we will have players coming in for Sandesh’s position. Sure we will not have his experience but we have players to fill in his position until he’s back.”

The number one goalkeeper of the country has returned to the same city where it all had begun way back in 2009, as an East Bengal colt. Looking back at his journey from East Bengal, he said, “The thing that matters to me now is to do my job. Nothing else matters. If I do it properly, the team gets help and I also get help.”

He however fondly remembers his first derby for East Bengal when he put up an impeccable show under the bar to hold arch-rivals Mohun Bagan for a goalless draw in a Calcutta Football League Premier Division A match in 2010-11. “It was for the first time I experienced playing before about 100,000 fans. It made me start the journey so it’s a very important match for me,” he concluded.

NT Bureau