AFC Asian Cup – India needs to adopt a smart approach: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood like a giant wall for Team India against Kyrgyz Republic

ABU DHABI, 3rd January, 2018: Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been a top performer for the senior India team since 2015. In this interview he spoke at length about India’s opponents in the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, the goalkeeper’s role and understanding with the defensive line, learning from Subrata Paul and much more.

EXCERPTS:

The team will face Thailand, UAE and Bahrain in the group stage. Who would be our (India’s) toughest opponent?

GSS: I feel all are extremely difficult to play against. No team will come into the Asian Cup without doing their homework. I am sure the three teams will hold us in high regard as well. All three teams are huge challenges to face. We have to be smart in our approach and take it one game at a time. We need to get the best possible result in the first game and then approach the second match accordingly.

How important is communication between you and the defenders? How do you improve and work upon it?

GSS: Once you play with each other and gain confidence, it gets better. The more you play together, the trust level increases. Communication between defenders and the goalkeeper is the hallmark of a strong team. In my opinion, we have done well in that respect.

(Subrata) Pal rose to the occasion in the 2011 Asian Cup and was lauded. Do you feel any pressure?

GSS: Even at that point (no disrespect to someone like Subrata-bhai) I felt that I should be the one playing (laughs aloud and utters: ‘Just kidding’). I had that desire to play for the country and it was an eye-opener for me. He made a number of brilliant saves. I feel that as a team, we have to work hard to avoid getting into situations where the goalkeeper has to make saves all the time. We need to put in a strong team performance and be a difficult team to play against.

How would you compare the two Indian teams — the one from 2011 and the current batch?

GSS: The 2011 team consisted of various legends. All were talented and played under an incredible coach. However, if we consider factors like team development and playing in a similar system, I feel the batch of 2019 has the upper hand. The desire and the fire to learn defines our squad. I was the youngest player (aged 18) in 2011 and this time we have many U-23 players in the squad. It highlights the development of the sport at the grassroots level in the last 7-8 years in the country.

What are your memories from the 2011 AFC Asian Cup campaign?

GSS: It was very special as it was my first senior team experience. Training alongside the biggest names in Indian football was something that I never expected to do. I took every single day as it came and made every single moment count. I learnt as much as I could.

Any particular lesson from that group?

GSS: I learnt a lot from the senior goalkeepers – Subrata-bhai (Paul), Arindam-bhai (Bhattacharya) and Subhasish-bhai (Roy Chowdhury). Training with them was really enjoyable and I remember trying to ape them. Also, I have special memories of playing against Bhaichung-bhai (Bhutia), Renedy-bhai (Singh) and Sunil-bhai (Chhetri).

By AIFF Media

Also Read: AFC ASIAN CUP: Blue Tigers lauded by India football legend

Also Read: AFC ASIAN CUP: Blue Tigers do their bit for these special champions!

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