Ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2019, India defender Sandesh Jhingan revealed that the loss to Bahrain in the 2011 edition made him cry, but it gave him the determination to don the national jersey in the future.

“In 2011, I was a kid. We had played very well and deserved a much better result. The performance of the Indian team in that tournament fuelled my desire to make sure we qualified for the tournament once again, with me being a part,” Jhingan was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation.

“We are really pumped up for the Asian Cup since we qualified. Since then, the priority had been to stay fit and be in good form to get into the final list of 23 for us to get the call-up.”

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Though in a tough group, Jhingan feels reaching the second phase of the tournament isn’t impossible. “We have to stick to our plan and perform as the coach wants us to. We have to keep showing the unity which has made us stand out. If we do that, we can grind out the results we need,” he added.

Jhingan is wary of UAE, the host. “I feel they will be tough to face. But I believe that the onus is all on us. If any team is overconfident or not at the top of its game, they can be beaten. If you are prepared as a team and focused on the job at hand, you can make the game tough for the opponents.”

Before playing for India, the 25-year-old had turned heads in the Indian Super League for Kerala Blasters. Head coach Stephen Constantine presented him the national cap in 2015. The duo share a great rapport.

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“I have to thank him for giving me my debut for the national team. That happened after I had spent two years on the bench. It was a huge moment for me. I have a good bonding with him and I fondly remember when we first met in Guwahati in 2015.

“He also helped me improve on my weaknesses. Under his guidance, I feel I have come a long way as a player. I know what he wants from me as a player and as a person.”

When Jhingan is not on grass, he writes poetry to relax his nerves. “Poetry helps me calm down a lot and cope with the hectic life of a footballer.”

It remains to be seen if he can compose a desert fairytale to stand out among the Asian giants.