India football captain Sunil Chhetri is of the view that the country needs to focus more on qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup on a consistent basis before dreaming about playing in the World Cup.
“We have to qualify for this tournament constantly. We sure want to win the game against Myanmar (on March 28). The last time we played (Myanmar) we lost 0-1 after missing so many chances and it dashed our dreams. We talk about playing in the World Cup but if we have to better ourselves, this is a big benchmark, this is the real one,” said the star striker ahead of India’s Group A game in Yangoon.
“If we had more training time or played more matches it would have helped but that’s in the past. We have got 13-14 days now to make sure what the Gaffer (coach Stephen Constantine) wants is to do. This is different from club football.
“This is massive as we have a chance to qualify for the most important tournament in Asia, the 2019 Asia Cup. It’s very important to qualify for such big tournaments,” said the 32-year-old player who had taken part in the 2011 Asian Cup.
Chhetri and the other national team probables are having a short camp at the Andheri Sports Complex here before heading first to Cambodia to play a friendly against that country in Phnom Penh on March 22 ahead of the AFC Asian Cup qualifying group game against Myanmar.
“It’s not very often we play big tournaments and we talk about Asia Cup and it is the biggest in Asia, so when you have a chance you want to grab it. We have been playing qualification for so long and now we are in the final stages of qualification and we don’t want to give up,” he elaborated.
“The best in Asia are here. In 2011 we were unlucky to get Australia South Korea and Bahrain – ranked 1, 3 and 5 (then in Asia). That’s the sort of tournaments you want to play,” said Chhetri.
India have been clubbed with Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Macau which is considered the easier group, but Chhetri thought otherwise.