India captain Sunil Chhetri is confident yet a little concerned about his players’ ability to convert chances into goal ahead of their World Cup qualifier game against Afghanistan and Oman on November 14 and 19 respectively. India drew with Qatar 0-0 and Bangladesh 1-1, and Chhetri, reflecting on the game against B’desh, felt his side could have converted better.
“It is worrisome, but you must cut some slack. These boys are young and they’re trying their best. With time, they’ll excel,” Chhetri told Times of India. [Against Bangladesh, it was a huge opportunity. I am not being harsh, but I wish we could have converted those chances. It was a game where Bangladesh defended really well; but still, we managed to create lots of chances. Had we converted a few of them, we would’ve grabbed all three points. That’s the area (converting chances) where we should really work on.”
Afghanistan are below India in the FIFA rankings and although Chhetri’s men are outright favourites for the match, the India captain pointed out the game against Bangladesh as to how rankings barely matter in a tournament as crucial as this. Post Afghanistan, India face Oman, a side they beat recently, but Chhetri’s India isn’t looking too far down the road.
“We have already seen what happens when you think about the FIFA rankings. Almost everyone had predicted a win for us before we played against Bangladesh in Kolkata but something else happened. So, I don’t pay much heed to rankings. If you would have asked anyone to predict the result prior to our game against Qatar, you must have got a different answer from what eventually happened in Doha,” he said.
“Facing Oman in Muscat is going to be a daunting task. Honestly, we’re not thinking about Oman right now. Our focus is on the Afghanistan game on Thursday and once we pass that hurdle, we’ll start thinking about Oman.”
Back-to-back fixtures tend to wear a team down physically and mentally, although Chhetri sees it as a positive.
“It’s always a positive when you play for the country,” he said. “Barring the Bangladesh game where we missed quite a few chances, and thereby lost an opportunity to take all three points, we have done well. All the boys are very much aware of the tough fixtures ahead, and they need to accept it when they’re representing the country. We’ll try our best to cope with it. We need to rest well, eat well and be prepared for the challenges ahead.”