Back in action, Chhetri likens national team setup with home
Indian football talisman Sunil Chhetri on Wednesday likened the national team setup with his home and expressed his relief at returning to where he belongs after missing two international friendlies due to COVID-19 infection.
The 36-year-old Indian captain, international football's second highest scorer among active players, is set to feature in the three upcoming joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Qatar next month.
"It's such a relief to be back in the national team squad. After all, home is where the heart is," Chhetri was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation.
Chhetri missed the Indian team's international friendlies against Oman and UAE in Dubai on March 25 and 29 respectively as he had just recovered from COVID-19 infection.
Needless to say, he is looking forward to lead by example in the upcoming matches.
India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
"Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to being in Doha. The last time I was in Doha, I couldn't be a part of the match against Qatar owing to illness," Chhetri, who has 72 international goals to his name, said.
The team will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble in Doha before its first match.
"The matches in June are extremely tough and we need to take them one at a time. Given the fact that we don't have much time, the preparatory camp will add immense value helping all to gel together, and strike that chord ahead of the first match," he added.
"Doha has always had an emotional connection with me. It was there that I played in the 2011 Asian Cup, and also the AFC Cup final for my club Bengaluru FC."
National coach Igor Stimac said the training sessions in Doha will be intense.
"We understand the magnitude of the situation, and it will be intense sessions in Doha to raise the tempo and try to get ready for the matches which starts with the one against the Asian Champions Qatar in Doha," Stimac said.
The qualifying round matches are being played in Doha in view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation which doesn't allow the original format of home and away games.
India are currently on three points from three matches in Group E.
Chhetri returns as Indian football team leaves for Doha for WC Qualifiers
Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri made a return after recovering from COVID-19 infection as a 28-member Indian football squad leaves for Doha evening for the three upcoming joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The team will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble in Doha before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar.
After missing the two international friendly matches against Oman and the UAE in March, Chhetri is set to feature in the forthcoming games.
As per the health parameters required to travel to Qatar, all the players and staff will carry with them negative results from the RT-PCR COVID-19 tests conducted in the last 48 hours.
Prior to their departure, all of them were serving quarantine in the national capital since May 15.
Head coach Igor Stimac stated that although it is not the 'ideal situation' ahead of the June Qualifiers, the Blue Tigers will be putting in 'intense' sessions during the camp before their matches get underway.
"It's not an ideal situation as we move ahead to the Qualifiers in June. Due to the pandemic, our national camp which was slated to begin in Kolkata at the beginning of May had to get cancelled.
"The pandemic also robbed us of a friendly match in Dubai," Stimac said.
June 3: India vs Qatar (10.30pm IST)
June 7: Bangladesh vs India (7.30pm IST)
June 15: India vs Afghanistan (7.30pm IST)
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.