International friendlies will help in preparation for Asian Cup qualifiers: Jhingan, Gurpreet

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Indian soccer team veterans Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu feel that the upcoming international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus will be a “perfect opportunity to test our skills” ahead of the Asian Cup qualifiers.

India is scheduled to play two international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus on March 23 and 26 respectively. Both matches will be played in Manama, Bahrain.

The Asian Cup qualifiers are scheduled for June, with the main tournament scheduled to be held in China next year.

“This is possibly some of the best news in recent times… These are the kind of matches we need,” reigning AIFF Player of the Year Jhingan said in a statement issued by the national federation.

“We played against Bahrain last time in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and we are aware that they are a very good team. We also understand that Belarus is also a powerful team.” India goalkeeper Sandhu said: “It will be an extremely difficult and good challenge to play against a team from a UEFA member association, which in itself is a great achievement.

“UEFA teams get to play against the best in the world, as they regularly rub shoulders with them. So, they will come with all the experience and present us with the perfect opportunity to test ourselves.

“The federation has done a great job organizing these two matches. I see this as a real step forward towards our preparation ahead of the final round of Asian Cup qualifiers in June 2022.”

According to Jhingan, there is “quality and potential” in the current squad and these games will help improve it.

“We have a lot of quality and potential in our squad. We look forward to these games to improve as a team and to be fully prepared for the final qualifying round of the Asian Cup in June. We understand the importance of such matches,” he said.

Star midfielder Anirudh Thapa also stressed that the two matches will be an “exciting experience”.

“Many teams have not had the opportunity to play competitive games due to the pandemic. And here we are, with two games scheduled against Bahrain and Belarus. I feel like we are lucky, and playing against such competent teams will be an exciting experience,” he said.

“Such matches will not only facilitate and promote the development of Indian football on the world stage, but also lay the foundation for the next generation to learn from our successes and failures.”

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