Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: Igor Stimac has made every position competitive

Apart from making every position in the team competitive, newly roped in India head coach Igor Stimac has also brought in several youngsters, said Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's heroics helped India hold Qatar to a draw in its last FIFA World Cup qualifiers outing.   -  REUTERS

The new India head coach Igor Stimac’s smartest innovation has been in picking up a group of young talents and making every slot in the team competitive feels Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first-choice goalkeeper of the Indian team.

Sandhu, who plays for the ISL club Bengaluru FC, said the Stimac’s move has instilled a fighting spirit in the side as the players are trying to give their best to secure their position in the side.

“I think the coach (Stimac) has been very smart from the start as he brought in the mixture of young players so that we have options and competitiveness in every single position,” Sandhu said prior to the Indian team’s first practice session ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifying (group E) match against Bangladesh, which will be played at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday.

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Reacting to a question on how big a void the absence of injured centre-back Sandesh Jhingan create in the team, Sandhu said, “Sandesh enjoys a key position in the side and I hope he recovers soon from the injury. It is sure that we won’t have his experience, but we have players that can fill in his position and I am sure the coaching staff is prepared for that."

With India needing a win to better its position in the group standings, where it currently placed fourth with just a point, Sandhu felt India can ill afford to make mistakes against Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is a team which plays with confidence and with heart. And teams like that are very difficult to play against. So we just need to make sure that we make less mistakes and play to our strengths as a team in front of our home fans,” Sandhu said.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper who made his national team debut at the age of 19 said there has been a big transformation in the technical ability of the Indian players, who are now more aware of the tactical aspects of the game.

“Tactics and technical ability have both become very important now and we have players on the pitch who are good at that. The last few years have made a difference as the Indian players gained a lot from playing with good players and coaches coming from Europe,” Sandhu added.

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