With the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, the ongoing Intercontinental Cup has been billed as a crucial opportunity to prepare for the same and according to national team assistant coach Venkatesh S., the coaching staff will continue "assessing the players" as the Blue Tigers take on DPR Korea here on Saturday.
Venkatesh said, "For head coach Igor Stimac, all the 23 players are equal and we have multiple players for each position. We have picked the best 23 players in the country and with six substitutions per match, we want to use everyone and see how they react to certain situations."
"Our plan has to be to win the game, of course, irrespective of who plays. The coach has clearly stated that these games are to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers and we don't want to put too much pressure on the players or lose anyone due to injuries," he added.
"The things that didn't go right for us in the first match are the things that can be fixed," said goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, adding, "It's not much of a worry for me as a player and for my other teammates as well. I am sure that everyone is ready to learn, which is important, and make sure that we grow stronger day by day."
In the opening match of the tournament, India lost 2-4 to Tajikistan despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first half.
18-year-old Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who was handed his senior team debut by coach Stimac at the King's Cup 2019 in Thailand, said the team is "extremely focused", adding that he hopes the fans will continue to support the team as they did during the previous encounter.
He said, "The whole team is extremely focused on the match against DPR Korea. What's done is done and we are not thinking about the loss to Tajikistan. We have been working hard so as to not repeat the mistakes we made. We want to play even better and I hope we get the support of the fans in the stadium once again."
Centre back Adil Khan, who made his comeback to the national team under coach Stimac, said, "Our ultimate aim is to do well in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The coach is looking at many players in the squad to settle on his best 11 and there is a good competition for places. For the match against DPR Korea, we are preparing well and know that we have to do our best."
The match between India and DPR Korea will kick-off at 8 p.m. IST and will be a crucial one for both sides in their bid to enter the final. DPR Korea suffered a 2-5 defeat against Syria in their opening fixture.
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