DUBAI, Nov 12: Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri on Tuesday asked his team-mates to pull up their socks and produce an improved performance in the team’s crunch World Cup qualifying round match against Afghanistan on Thursday.
After inspiring performance against Asian champions Qatar (0-0 draw), India played out a 1-1 draw against lower-ranked Bangladesh, who were on the verge of running away with the match before the home side’s late equaliser in Kolkata on October 15.
Igor Stimac’s side are now at the fourth spot in the Group E table with two points and Thursday’s match at Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe will be a crunch game for India to remain in the hunt in the qualifying round. The war-ravaged Afghanistan chose Dushanbe as their home venue for the second round qualifiers of the World Cup.
Chhetri said “converting chances” was an area where the team needs to work more. India had a slew of chances against Bangladesh and all of them they wasted except for the 88th minute header from Adil Khan.
“We are creating chances. But that is not enough. We have to try our best to convert them and try to be a tougher unit while defending. We have missed against Bangladesh and we need to pull up our socks against Afghanistan,” Chhetri said after a short training stint at the Dubai Sports City.
“At the end of the day, if we can do better on the pitch, we’ll be happier,” Chhetri added.
The team is on transit here on way to Dushanbe. The players reached here on Monday and will leave for Tajikistan later in the day. They will reach Dushanbe – which has no direct flight from any Indian city – on Wednesday, just a day before the match.
Stimac, on his part, said his team will go for a win and it cannot afford to slip at any cost.
“We have a steep task in Dushanbe and we have to overcome that. Winning against Afghanistan is the only thing that is going on in our mind now. It will not come to us, rather we need to go and snatch it. It’s always about us and our performance to achieve something,” the Croatian said.
Fullback Subhasish Bose said, “Maintaining clean sheets will be of paramount importance in order to stay alive in the race of the World Cup Qualifiers. We will need to be sharper in the absence of Sandesh bhai (Jhingan).
“The team is upbeat. We will leave no stone unturned to make the most out of the remaining games. We were able to do the same against Qatar. If we play to our true potential, there’s no reason not to repeat it against Afghanistan and Oman again,” he added. – PTI