The Indian and Chinese football team are all set for a face-off in a friendly match after a gap of 21 years. The two teams will play each other on October 12 at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium. Their last encounter was in Kochi in the year 1997 during the Nehru Cup tournament, which China won by 2-1.
Ahead of the fixture, Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri has reiterated how the team's performance was much more important to him that achieving personal records. He said:
"I have never thought about my personal goals. If you focus on personal goals, then you'll go in a different direction where you don't actually want to head. We are a team and that's the most important thing. I'm one of the senior players, actually, the senior most player (chuckles) and I have my responsibility towards the team. What we achieve individually is important but it's never ever more than the team does."
The nation's all-time leading goal scorer also mentioned that even though the Chinese side has the home turf advantage, his team was excited to be playing against "quality opponent", while adding that the two neighbours should have played more often in the past.
Nevertheless, Chhetri sees this as an excellent opportunity where the team can show their best, and evaluate its performance, identifying areas where they need to improve. He also appreciated the Chinese coach, Marcelo Lippi, for training the team to become strong, especially at home.
"I'm very excited because they are a quality opponent and they have always been a respected side in Asia. To face them at their home is going to be a tough challenge but this is a challenge that we should face now. Our form away from home hasn't been particularly very good. This is a great opportunity for us to take a good account of ourselves. China is one of the Asian teams who is doing really great in football of late. The league has gone from strength to strength and the national team has benefitted from that under a respectable coach like Marcelo Lippi. That's going to be the perfect challenge that we need to assess ourselves. We have done really well in the last couple of years but now it'll help us gauge ourselves before the Asian Cup," he added.
Sunil also stated that the Indian team needs to amp up their ''defence' and try to gain a momentum early in the match so they can dominate in the game in the later stage. The Indian Football side hasn't had a successful run in the overseas matches and the clash with the Chinese side is a good chance to improve.
"We have to defend really well. By the look and feel, I believe we have to do a lot of defending. We should not afford them much space. At the same time, whenever we find a little room of opportunity, we have to construct the moves and counter them. To sum it up, it's a game where we must be at the top of our game in every single department. If we are not being able to combine well and operate as a team, then they'll make us struggle a lot. We haven't done particularly well away from our home. We need to better our records and it's the time to do so. I just hope we can utilise this opportunity to go back and give a good account of ourselves. We have to convince ourselves first that yes, we are improving," he said.
The Indian side has faced China 17 times till date. The latter team won on 12 occasions and the remaining 5 matches ended in a stalemate. India has never won a game against the Red Dragons. Here's hoping this time the Indian side can change history to record its first win!
(With Inputs from ANI)