Keen to see India improving their away record, national football team captain Sunil Chhetri Thursday said defense will be the key when they play an international friendly against China after 21 years on Saturday.
“We have to defend really well. By the look and feel, I believe we have to do a lot of defending. We should not afford them much space. At the same time, whenever we find a little room of opportunity, we have to construct the moves and counter them,” said Cheetri.
“To sum it up, it’s a game where we must be at the top of our game in every single department. If we are not being able to combine well and operate as a team, then they’ll make us struggle a lot,” he said.
Chettri said India have not done well away from our home and it’s time to better “our records”. “It’s the time to do so. I just hope we can utilise this opportunity to go back and give a good account of ourselves. We have to convince ourselves first that yes, we are improving. Come January, it will be very difficult for us and we have to be ready for that.”
“I’m happy that we are playing a team like China. It’s strange that we are playing them after so long. We should have played them more often. I’m very excited because they are a quality opponent and they have always been a respected side in Asia.”
Chettri missed out on India’s last away fixture against the Kyrgyzstan due to an injury. He is keen to make his presence count but will not take pressure. “I don’t take too much pressure on myself. I’m happy that I’m back to the team once again, that too for an away fixture. It’s very difficult but it’s something where I want to be. Thank God, everyone seems to be fit, I’m fit too. I can’t just wait to go out there and give our best on Saturday.”
The charismatic captain said he was more focussed on the team doing well than personal accomplishments. “If you focus on personal goals, then you’ll go in a different direction where you don’t actually want to head. We are a team and that’s the most important thing. I’m one of the senior players, actually, the senior most player and I have my responsibility towards the team. What we achieve individually is important but it’s never ever more than the team does.”
China are being coached by World Cup-wining Italian Marcelo Lippi but Chhetri said every team playing at home is dangerous. “Forget about China — any team who’s not as fancy as China are always threatening at their home. China are one of the Asian teams who are doing really great in football of late. The League has gone from strength to strength and the national team has benefitted from that under a respectable coach like Marcelo Lippi.
“That’s going to be the perfect challenge that we need to assess ourselves. We have done really well in the last couple of years but now it’ll help us gauge ourselves before the Asian Cup.”