KOCHI: Captain Sunil Chhetri stays aware of the demands of an International Friendly. A day prior to the kick-off of India’s match against Palestine, Chhetri spoke at length to www.the-aiff.com about the mood in the Camp, team-spirit, his assessment of Palestine, recreation of the Nehru Cup magic, the ‘new faces’ and much more.EXCERPTS:
How is the mood in the Camp?
It’s very positive. All my colleagues who have headed straight into Kochi from the I-League aren’t carrying any injuries. That’s important. Injuries would have hampered our training, especially given the fact that we are going into the match after just two full sessions. But despite that, we stay optimistic.
Can the magic of Nehru Cup be recreated?
We need to have the same momentum which we had during the Nehru Cup – right form our first match against Syria to the final — which we won against Cameroon. We stuck to our plan and stood beside each other – both on and off the field. Sticking together stays the plan even now. Apart from the Palestine Friendly, I’m eagerly looking forward to the camp in Pune for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers.
What’s most challenging in an International Friendly?
It’s all about the tempo and the intensity of play. You just cannot compare an International Friendly with a club match. If you look at the basics, eg, the kms which a player has run – it’s much higher. The transition from club football to an International Friendly, that too within two days is very challenging indeed.
What’s your assessment of Palestine as a team?
We haven’t seen much of them but have watched some videos. If you look at their last Tournament, the West Asia Cup (December 2012), they had a fairly good result. They were clubbed with Oman, Kuwait and Lebanon and had some good results. But it’s been two months since then. They have brought in some new faces as have Indian Coach Wim Koevermans.
You need to remember that they are ranked higher than us and it will be a tough match for us. But at the same time, we play at Home and how we react to the challenge will be crucial.
There’s a quite a number of ‘new faces’ – how have they settled in?
It’s always an ongoing process. All the ‘new faces’ are all very talented and have earned their place in the squad. They need to be given their space and understand the demands of the team at the same time. They are giving their best and we are going all out to make them comfortable and feel at home.