India will be looking for their 9th SAFF Championship title tomorrow against Kuwait in the final at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore. After missing the semi-final against Lebanon, Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan now wants to give their best after a long season. India's assistant coach Mahesh Gawli, who again will be on the sidelines for India in the absence of Igor Stimac, feels this fitter and stronger Indian team is ready to roar in the final.
Although Sandesh missed the last match, he did not feel that the Indian defence line comprising youngster Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, and others did a tremendous job and the team actually did not look like missing him. "I missed being on the pitch like any of the footballers. You do not want to miss the big games. I think the team did really well. I don't think I was much 'missed'," Sandesh said in the pre-final press conference.
"I was pretty confident to be honest, that we will go through," Sandesh Jhingan added. But, with the backline doing well, the coach and the team management will have a good headache with team selection in the final of the SAFF Championship 2023 tomorrow. Assistant head coach Mahesh Gawli feels with everyone doing well and staying fit and fresh for the final, they will take a call after assessing each and every player before the big final tomorrow.
India already faced Kuwait before in this tournament in the Group-A clash which was the only match that the Indian team could not win after a late unfortunate own goal from Anwar Ali. Not only that, that game saw a few unfortunate things happening on the sidelines as well. India's head coach Igor Stimac received a red card along with Rahim Ali as both went on to miss the semi-final while Stimac is set to miss the final as well.
In that context, assistant coach Mahesh Gawli wants his players to remain calm and composed during the game. Moreover, he wants the men in blue to emphasise and remain focused on the football that needs to be played tomorrow against the strong Kuwait team.
Sandesh feels Kuwait is the strongest opponent the Indian team played in the last three weeks and the rankings they have does not justify that. But, the defender feels with the longer camp the team had has really helped the team be more united and have a process that can lead to bigger success in the future. Hence, they just want to keep on following the "process" they have been doing and the Indian team can have success against any opponent. Mahesh Gawli echoed the same thought as well.
Not only that, the assistant coach feels the change and chops that the team management has been doing throughout the last month, have not created any issue for the team.
"They understand each other very well. They have been together for 55 days. Whatever mistakes (they do), we tell them, we analyze them and then, we rectify those mistakes. And, that's how they are (the defenders) going," Mahesh Gawli said.
In the same context Sandesh quoted the great Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini, "the script is the same. only the actors change." Hence, they all now want to focus on the script made by coaches. Sandesh feels coaches and former players like Mahesh Gawli should be credited for the system now they have as defenders in the Indian football team.
"Lot of credit should go to Mahesh bhai. The sessions he takes with us. The small inputs, when should we move forward, when should we go back. So, the script is all that matters and the training we do all together is what matters," Jhingan told the media.
With a full stadium expected on a weekday, Sandesh Jhingan did not miss the opportunity to thank the crowd at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium which was exceptional in every India game in SAFF Championship 2023. The defender now wants everyone to make that last push to win the title for the ninth time and then celebrate together as a nation.
"They have been brilliant from the Pakistan game. One more push. Let's go for it together. Everyone is part of the growth (of Indian football). Wherever you will be, we will be together so that we can tell our next generations that when this thing was happening, we all were part of it."