Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh admitted that his confidence was boosted after his selection to the national squad for the international friendly matches in March. It was following the assignment that the custodian produced some brilliant performances for FC Goa in the AFC Champions League.
Dheeraj Singh sprung into the limelight with his excellent glove-work during the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, in India. After a small stint with I-League outfit Indian Arrows, the custodian was roped in by Kerala Blasters FC, subsequently making his entry into the Indian Super League.
However, his subsequent move to ATK from Kerala proved ineffective as the youngster was benched more often than not during his two-year stay at the club. It was FC Goa that roped in Dheeraj earlier this year, and he has played 14 matches for the club since then. On the basis of his current form, the Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac summoned him for the friendly matches against Oman and UAE in March.
Even though he did not make an International debut, Dheeraj feels that his selection for the national squad has boosted his confidence to a great extent. It's following the assignment that he put on some breath-taking displays for FC Goa in the AFC Champions League.
"Getting into the national team had a big impact on my confidence. Our coach also gave us a lot of confidence, taking the pressure off from our shoulders. He just told us to go out there and play our normal game, and that's what we did," said Dheeraj Singh.
FC Goa were up against some of the biggest clubs in Asia, that included Persepolis (Iran), Al-Rayyan (Qatar) and Al-Wahada (UAE). The odds were heavily stacked against the ISL outfits but they still managed to register three points, which was not an ordinary feat considering they were the first Indian side to feature in the top-tier league. Dheeraj Singh feels that the exposure gained by the players in the ISL helped them perform well in the continental event.
"I still remember when the AFC Champions League started, many of my friends asked whether I was ready, and how many goals I expected to concede. We came up as a very strong team that was disciplined and difficult to score against,” added the goalkeeper.
“We did really well in the first two games, and that really gave us confidence to go forward for the rest of the matches. I think it was the benefit of playing the ISL, that we had moved forward together, and could perform at that level."