Sunil Chhetri – There will not be a single easy game for us


Indian national football team head coach Igor Štimac and captain Sunil Chhetri spoke to the press on Saturday as they looked ahead to the opening fixture of the SAFF Championship, which is currently underway in the Maldives.

On Monday, the Blue Tigers take on high-flying Bangladesh, who beat Sri Lanka in their first game courtesy of a penalty from Topu Barman. The seven-time winners landed in the Maldives on 28th September and have been training ever since. Nepal defeated Maldives 1-0 later the same day.

India played two friendlies with Nepal in early September as preparatory games for the SAFF Championship. The first game ended all square in a 1-1 stalemate. The second match saw goals from Sunil Chhetri and Farukh Choudhary to inspire the Blue Tigers to a 2-1 victory.

Scroll down to read how the press conference unfolded.

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Štimac on how he views the opening games in the tournament

“There was one counter-attack by Nepal in their match against the Maldives, and they won the game despite the Maldives being the better side. We don’t know what each game will bring to us on the plate. We will adapt to everything that is thrown at us.”

Štimac on how India have prepared

“We will be playing a style which will bring us results. We are trying to provide all necessary information to our players about our opposition and motivate ourselves. We came here four days before the tournament, and we have trained on artificial and natural grass. We are taking good care of the players and explaining to them the possible situations.”

“The players know what I’m expecting from them and what their duties are. So I’m very confident and excited about this tournament, and I expect to enjoy this tournament and not have any nervousness. We are determined to represent India in a good manner and deliver what is expected from us on the pitch.”

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Sunil Chhetri on the two preparatory games in Nepal

“If we’re talking solely about the two games we played against Nepal, we have to improve in many areas. And that has already been talked about and conveyed to us by our Head Coach. We know we could have done better in Nepal as players. And this is just me talking as a player. And whatever things that we had to work on were conveyed to us right after the game.”

“And also now, with every passing day, we realized that every other team who probably are in the same region is also improving – which means that if we play against them, we cannot afford to be 90 percent. Not just against Nepal, but in a game against any one of them. That is one of the biggest learnings that we have learned playing Nepal in Nepal. And hopefully, we will take it in our stride. Taking that forward to this tournament, we realize that there will not be a single easy game for us.”

Štimac on the impact of Sandesh Jhingan’s absence in the squad

“It’s not just Sandesh (Jhingan) alone whom we are missing. (Rowllin) Borges has been absent for a while for the National Team and even Ashique (Kuruniyan).  But we cannot think of that at the moment. We wish them a fast recovery and expect them to join us as soon as possible. But we have other players here, and we need to have enough capacity to cover all the positions. Sandesh was a leader, very vocal, and he held the team together. But we need to replace him together as a team, making an effort throughout 90 minutes.” 

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