Indian football team’s talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri wants his country to “set a benchmark” by regularly qualifying for AFC Asian Cup, the continent’s premier tournament.
India are preparing for the Asian Cup Qualifiers, and first up will be Myanmar, who had emerged winners in the last meeting between the two sides – in the 2014 edition of AFC Challenge Cup.
“I just want to win this game. We have to set a benchmark that we are regularly qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup and this is the time to achieve it. That is how you will know that you are improving. This game against Myanmar is of huge importance for us as we have a realistic chance of qualification,” Chhetri said on Friday.
India’s highest scorer in the international arena, Chhetri said that he and his boys will “need to play at our best” to beat Myanmar.
“Myanmar are one of the toughest teams to face in South East Asia at the moment. It will be a tough challenge for us and we have to play to the best of our abilities if we have to win there,” Chhetri said prior to a practice session at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai.
India have been clubbed in Group A alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau.
“It is going to be very hard as it is an open group where any team can qualify. All permutations and combinations work when you do your hard work on the pitch. And we have been doing good, now is the time to do better,” Chhetri said.
The national team will play an international friendly against Cambodia on March 22.
“We have a handful of days to understand what the coach (Stephen Constantine) wants from us. Playing for the national team is completely different from playing at the club level.
“The good thing is that we play away (vs Cambodia). We have not been getting good results away from home and it is a chance to rectify that. It is up to us now how hard we work and how we perform on the pitch.”
Crediting Constantine for bringing in new faces, Chhetri said, “It is always nice to see competition within the squad. It helps you to improve.
“Since Constantine took over some players have evolved drastically. Younger players getting opportunities is also good for the growth of Indian football.”