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Asian World Cup qualifiers: Jhingan says Indian football team needs to focus on the task at hand

Veteran defender Sandesh Jhingan on Tuesday said Indian players should not hesitate to admit that the Indian football team did not play to its potential during the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. India is already out of the race for a place in the next round of the World Cup qualifiers. The team is fourth in the group with three points from five matches. The team will need to score three points from the remaining three matches to secure an automatic place in the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifying.

India has to play against Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15 at the Jassim bin Hammad Stadium. Jhingan, who made a comeback in the national team after seven months, said, “We can never take things lightly. The team needs to focus on the task at hand. It didn’t happen the way it should have been.”

He said, “I will be the first to come forward and say that we did not play according to our ability. It didn’t happen the way we all wanted. Especially when we got a promising start.” Jhingan, who returned to the team after recovering from a knee injury, said, “We need to be fearless enough to take responsibility for it. I would like to say again that we could not play to our potential.”

On joining the team, he said, “It is a matter of relief. I am happy that I was able to come back from injury. The greatest honor of a human being is to represent his country. I am lucky and grateful to the team in this matter.” Jhingan had to be out of the team since October last year due to injury. He did not play a single match for his franchise Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League in the entire season. 

He was injured before the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15 last year. The charismatic footballer said that the team needs to learn from his mistakes and move on. He said, “It is a human tendency to remember and talk about negative things. In Dubai we did well against Oman with 10 debutants. People don’t talk about how we lag behind in the match, we could have won if we had played well for a while.”

When asked about the preparations for the upcoming matches, he said, “Anyone who understands football will know the importance of camp for good preparation. A friendly match plays an important role in the preparation of a big tournament. We did not get a chance to play friendly matches in Dubai due to the pandemic.”

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