Sunil Chhetri targets Uzbekistan tie after gritty show against Australia

01:12 PM Jan 14, 2024 | PTI |

Talismanic Indian forward Sunil Chhetri has urged his teammates to look forward and focus on the match against Uzbekistan after the 0-2 loss to heavyweights Australia in their AFC Asian Cup opener.


The Blue Tigers put up a gritty show to hold the Asian giants for a goalless stalemate in the first-half.

But Australia, who were the World Cup 2022 pre-quarterfinalists, demonstrated their superiority with goals from Craig Irwine (50′) and substitute Jordan Bos (73′).

”There are pros and cons to this game. It’s not easy to play the best team in Asia,” Chhetri said in AIFF website.

”We are not used to playing sides like these, as we don’t play against them very often, so you never know what to expect.” The Indian skipper, who began his career in 2005, failed to add to his tally of 93 goals but he said the focus is now on their match against Uzbekistan on January 18.


“It’s a mixed bag of feelings right now. Once we watch the videos, perhaps we will gain more confidence and work on the things that we could have done better,” he said.

“Uzbekistan are not Australia, but they’re a good side nonetheless. So it will be a big challenge in that game too,” he added.

India have two more matches left in the group with Syria being their last group-stage opponents.

Not all is lost for the Blue Tigers as they still can qualify for the last-16.

While the top-two advance directl, to make it 12 teams from six groups, the top four third-placed team complete the pre-quarters set.

For goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, it was a game of two halves — a strong performance under the woodwork in the first, while the second half was one to forget.

Proud of my boys

Hailing his wards’ performance, Indian head coach Igor Stimac said: “I am proud of my boys. They showed that they are a bunch of honest, hard-working people, who are committed to whatever we ask of them.” India showed that a side placed 102nd in the FIFA World Rankings can thwart a team placed 77 places above them. “It’s frustrating when you have to play teams like these. It would probably not have been so, had it not been a team of Australia’s calibre,” said Stimac.

“The second half was not good for us. We could not get out of the zone. The expectations were on the Australian players. They’re game-ready, so I am overall happy with the result.” Sandesh Jhingan led India’s backline and soldiered on with a hastily bandaged forehead and stitched-up cuts above each eyebrow.


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