Despite India’s superiority, every SAFF C’ship match is “a war to be waged”: Sunil Chhetri

Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri said on Saturday that despite “a little bit of superiority” India enjoys over South Asian countries, all opponents in the current SAFF championships will be tough and his team will play every game as one. ” war to be fought “.

India, which has won the regional football tournament seven times out of the 12 editions, opens its campaign against Bangladesh on Monday.

The five-team tournament kicked off on Friday with Nepal and Bangladesh defeating the Maldives and Sri Lanka respectively by identical margins of 1-0.

“All the games will be difficult. Despite a little superiority that we have a lot, every game will be like a war to be waged. We have to fight until the last minute. We can’t play 90 percent, ”Chhetri said at a virtual press conference.

The captain admitted, however, that his side had not performed at their best in the two international friendlies against Nepal in Kathmandu last month. They shot one and won the other.

“If we talk about the two matches against Nepal, we have areas for improvement and the head coach told us about that. We could have done better.

“Bangladesh have changed coaches (after the World Cup qualifiers) but they are a very difficult team. In the two matches that we have played against Bangladesh in the last three or four months, it has been very difficult. All the teams in the region have improved.

“So we want to play one game at a time. At the moment we are only thinking of the Bangladesh match, we are not thinking of the final.

Head coach Igor Stimac said the SAFF Championships, which end on October 16, will be the last opportunity for players to compete in international matches before the start of the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers. AFC 2023 in February of next year.

“We couldn’t have a suitable camp due to the circumstances. AFC and SAFF were forced to hold tournaments outside the FIFA window (due to the pandemic) and we had to come to an agreement with ISL clubs to release players outside the FIFA window. FIFA window because they also want to do well.

“We said our national team would drop out of November and ISL clubs would release players in September and October. We thank the ISL clubs (for releasing the players for the SAFF championships). “

Stimac said it was an advantage for the team to have players from Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan who had recently played here in the AFC Cup.

“After playing in the AFC Cup, the BFC and ATK MB players also had their pre-season, so it’s an advantage as most of the other ISL teams don’t have a pre-season yet. -season. So we have to decide how many minutes we have to give the players during the 90 minutes.

“But we are in the favorite position to win the tournament and we will justify ourselves.”

Stimac also spoke about the danger of players injuring themselves while training on the artificial pitches in Male, while Chhetri said the pitches were not “smooth”.

“We are here four days before the first game. The training grounds are different here – man-made and natural pitches.

Injury can occur by changing these locations, we must be careful. We are on an island and have to come to Male by speedboat, which made things even more difficult.

Commenting on Udanta’s return to the squad after missing matches against Nepal, Stimac said: “We saw a different Udanta in the AFC Cup for Bengaluru FC, in his natural position where he was not playing in the past He returned to his best.

“That’s what we want to see from Udanta, hitting straight at full speed, executing chances and creating chances. Every player will have chances here.

“We have to organize ourselves in a disciplined manner and come back quickly after losing the ball. “

Stimac said the 2022 World Cup qualifying matches against Oman and Asian champions Qatar were the best matches after taking over the team in mid-2019.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve been trying to get to the point where we have to start thinking only of ourselves, not changing our game over our opponent.”