I should have done better in front of the goal: Sunil Chhetri

PANAJI: India doesn't have much to show in the qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Already out of the race with three points, all draws, from their first five games, India's focus is now on the 2023 Asian Cup. Captain Sunil Chhetri , who joined Puma on World Soccer Day, explains why fans can expect better days. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with TOI.

After the impressive draw against Oman, everything has gone downhill for India with the latest draws against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. How do you explain that?

We should have done better. We did very well against Oman in the second half, far away. I should have buried those possibilities against Afghanistan. Although personally disappointed, because these are my last qualifiers, I must say that the margins were very small. If I had scored an open header against Afghanistan, there are three points there. Against Oman, if we had defended that great ball, that has no goals. The good thing is that we are competing against stronger teams.

But that's never good enough while you play the World Cup qualifiers ...

Yes, we have to be ruthless. We have changed our game; We are more accustomed to passing, we fight, but in the end it is the small margins that make the difference. We lost six or seven open opportunities (against Bangladesh) at home. After the momentum against Qatar, we should have buried those possibilities. Even against Afghanistan, we should have got those three points.

India has been competitive in all five games so far and went to Qatar. But, as coach Igor Stimac says, the final touch is missing. How do you solve that problem?

I take responsibility If I see the four games I played, (there are) almost seven or eight opportunities I shouldn't have missed. Before blaming anyone, it's me first. Others also have to take responsibility. We have lost many opportunities that should have been converted at this level. You don't have so many opportunities. We should have done better. I am sure that all of us playing in the attack line are thinking about it and we will improve. Work on it, keep trying and one day, the ball will enter. Unfortunately, we are talking about the qualifiers. We have to be in top form; A good ending would have given us seven or eight points.

Does this Indian team have more confidence than before?

They are the results. When you play Oman and Qatar, and you do it well, it gives you confidence. But, again, when you play in Bangladesh and lose two points, it also demoralizes you. Overall, recent results such as Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Thailand have made us much safer. We have to continue building it.

Are we making enough progress under Stimac?

We train well, the coach has lovely ideas. He wants to keep the ball and the whole country can see that. He is not afraid to interpret anyone. Yes, the results have not gone in our direction, but we should not blame a single person. He works very hard and gives young people many opportunities. We enjoy your training. I think we are doing well. The results will come.

How long can you bear the burden of scoring goals for India?

To be honest, it's not a burden, it's a absolute pleasure . Until I can, I will continue to do so. There is nothing else I want to do. Playing for the country is a privilege, scoring is an honor, winning matches is an absolute delight. I don't think it's a burden because there are many others that help me. We have many young people to come; Manvir (Singh) is fine for his club. I have high hopes for him as number nine. Farukh (Choudhary) is fine in the league. There is Sahal (Abdul). Take a little time.