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Not afraid of any opponent in Asian Qualifiers for WC: Gurpreet

Kolkata, Aug 20 (IANS) On a high after winning the Arjuna Award, Indian football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is ready to give his best for the national side in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, and feels the young side is a confident bunch and isn’t scared of tougher opponents.

India will take on Oman in Guwahati on September 5 and then play Asian champions Qatar away on September 10 in one of the most difficult games in the campaign. The other two teams in India’s group E are Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

“The first two games are difficult but according to me, every single game is going to be difficult,” Gurpreet told IANS from Goa where the national team is holding its preparatory camp.

“So, we just need to make sure that we play to our strengths and get something out of these two games to start with. We should have a lot of self confidence and belief in our abilities,” said the 27-year old.

Asked if the opening two fixtures are the toughest, the tall custodian said: “I cannot predict the future just like anyone else. But all I can say is that we will give our best when we step on the pitch. As we have shown in the past, we can win games and give tough time to tough opponents.”

India, ranked 103rd in the world, took on Oman in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers also and lost 1-2 in Bengaluru and 0-3 away. Under new coach Igor Stimac, India are still settling down with the Croatian keen on blooding youngsters.

“When a new mentality comes in, it takes time for them to adjust and gain knowledge about what they have at their disposal. That’s what we saw in the first five games (under Stimac),” said Gurpreet who holds the distinction of being the only Indian to have played in the Europa League (qualifier).

“The coach has said that he knows now what we have and what we don’t have. So I guess that is what is there.”

Gurpreet is the fourth goalkeeper since its inception to have been named for the Arjuna award, the previous ones being Subrata Paul (2016), Brahmanand Sankhwalkar (1997) and the late Peter Thangaraj (1967).

“It feels incredible. I never ever dreamed of such a moment in my life. I am very honoured and humbled. It’s a very proud moment,” he concluded.



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