Sukhwinder Singh has modified his SAFF Cup slogan of hum kissi se kum nahin (we aren’t inferior to anyone), to a simpler “let’s do our best” for the AFC Challenge Cup. India leave for Colombo on Sunday to defend their title, this time with an under-23 team and a different coach.
“We are concentrating on how to organise ourselves and give our best. Let’s not forget the bigger picture here is to have a bigger pool of senior national team players. If they (India’s opponents) are a lot superior, then so be it, but our goal will be to try our best,” Sukhwinder told HT on Saturday over the phone from Pune after winding up the preparatory camp.
The change in attitude could have something to do with three central midfielders — Baldeep Singh, Manish Mahtani and Jagpreet Singh — missing due to injury. And because goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, adjudged Player of the Tournament in the SAFF Cup which Sukhwinder’s U-23 India team won in Dhaka last December, is training with the senior squad in Dubai.
“These four players were the best in their positions. But then, Arindam being called for the senior team is vindication of what we are doing. Yes we will miss him but this is also an opportunity for Karanjit (Singh) who, based on form and experience, will be the first goalkeeper,” Sukhwinder said.
India are grouped with Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and North Korea.
Past Record AT AFC Cup
In 2006 (in Bangladesh): India U-20 team lost 0-3 to Nepal in the quarters.
In 2008 (in India): India won 4-1 against Tajikistan in the final, thereby earning a direct berth in the 2011 Asian Cup.