Kolkata– Heaping praise on his former teammate and skipper Sunil Chhetri, veteran India defender Gouramangi Singh on Tuesday backed the Indian team to deliver in the Asian Cup next year owing to their recent performances.
India rode Chhetri’s second half double on his 100th game for the country to blank Kenya 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup and storm into the final.
Jeje Lalpekhlua also got on the scoresheet with a delectable pile driver off a rebound as India made it two out of two wins. They had thrashed Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the tournament opener thanks to a Chhetri hattrick.
Under coach Stephen Constantine, India have won 13 of their last 16 games and with this meet being taken as a preparation to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Gouramangi said the team is just on the right track.
“Like they say winning is a habit, every win gives the team a moral high. Sunil is the leader and gives the final touch but since football is a team game, we cannot overlook or deny the excellence of each member in the team,” Gouramangi told IANS from Imphal.
Gouramangi was part of India’s last Asian Cup campaign in 2011 where they lost all three group games.
“I feel India will do very well in the Asian Cup next year. The rest of the team (barring Chhetri), Jeje, Sandesh also Udanta (Singh), Pritam (Kotal), Anas (Edathodika), Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) are the ones who lead up to the wins,” said the veteran centre-back who was an integral part in India’s 2008 AFC Challenge Cup win where Chhetri scored a treble in the final.
In next year’s Asian Cup, India have been clubbed with Bahrain, Thailand and United Arab Emirates in Group A.
On Chhetri, Gouramangi jogged back time to the days when they shared the dressing room, stating that the iconic striker deserves all the accolades on completing a century of caps for the national team.
“He deserves every bit of the milestone. We all work hard but he has done it for so long and with such consistency. It’s no cakewalk.
“We had some memorable years together with the national team which we all will cherish for life,” Gouramangi said.
Chhetri now has 61 goals for the country, just behind superstars Lionel Messi (64) and Cristiano Ronaldo (81).
India take on higher-ranked New Zealand on Thursday. The final is on Sunday. (IANS)