India centre half Sandesh Jhingan has revealed that India had decided to play without fear above everything when they took on continental champions Qatar on Tuesday. The veteran also admitted that moving away from the long-ball approach has seen many positives for the team under Igor Stimac.
While a win against Oman wasn’t highly anticipated, critics didn’t spare the Indian football and team and the coach after they lost the match 2-1 despite leading for the first 82 minutes of the game. Hence, the match against Qatar was vastly expected to be a one-sided affair especially after the World Cup hosts had demolished Afghanistan 6-0 in their first qualifier.
However, going against all odds, the Blue Tigers came up a gritty display that saw them holding the fort throughout the 90 minutes and eventually coming out with one precious point from the lion’s den. Jhingan stated that the team tried not to repeat any of the mistakes they had committed during the Oman loss.
"We literally stopped playing in the second half against Oman. That was something we didn't want to repeat. I'll put my hand up for that. It all starts from me, to play out from the back. That was the difference against Qatar,” said Jhingan, reported TOI.
“'Keep playing the way you are, minimise the individual errors, stick to the system, and just stay focused' were Stimac's motivating words. We knew that whatever the result is, we'd still continue to play, keep the ball. The plan was to play without fear, try to score and have a positive attitude. It wasn't easy. But we managed to do that and created some chances as well," Jhingan added.
While the back four did exceptionally well to keep Qatar at bay and the forward line kept the Qatari defence conscious of India packing a threat up top as well, the most crucial contributions of the match was provided by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who stopped an astounding 27 shots on the night to deny Qatar a goal in their own backyard. And Jhingan pointed out that all the team did was stick to the plan.
"We often communicated about potential threats. We were trying not to give them a chance to score. If they do something spectacular, then you can't really do much about it except to appreciate it. But we wanted to show our courage. We did not just want to sit back and fight for our lives. We needed to keep our shape, stick to the basics, and not commit mistakes," he said.
While most of the time the Indian team was seen clearing the ball from the back and Jhingan kicking it long from goal-kicks to get some breathing space, the team was also seen retaining the ball under pressure on certain occasions that consequently led to numerous real scoring chances for the visitors. And Jhingan shed light on the “passing from the back” philosophy that Igor Stimac has tried to indoctrinate in the side from day one.
"We are trying to play a different brand of football. So it does get messed up at times. But you have to look at the positives. It's all about having the right mindset and the courage. We've wanted to play it short and we have the quality to do that. Hopefully, we'll get better in the next two games and get more points on the board. We have been in the shadows now for too many years. But all the players believe that we can make a difference, so that people see India as footballing giants in the future," he concluded.
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