Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri on Thursday said that he and his team are eagerly waiting for their Intercontinental Cup 2023 matches to start.
The India Senior Men's Team will begin their Intercontinental Cup 2023 campaign with a first-ever meeting against Mongolia on Friday at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
Hosts India won the inaugural tournament in 2018 in Mumbai, defeating Kenya 2-0 in the final, while DPR Korea beat Tajikistan in the last edition in Ahmedabad in 2019.
The big target for India is the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in seven months' time and with the Blue Tigers set to play several matches until the end of this year.
India has been in camp in Bhubaneswar since May 15, giving head coach Igor Stimac plenty of time to make a strong assessment of his squad. The team could potentially play as many as nine matches in less than a month, with the SAFF Championship also beginning on June 21 in Bengaluru.
"The preparations are going well. We are here for the last three weeks and we are eagerly waiting for the matches to start," Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri told ANI.
Earlier in the pre-match press conferences with the head coach Igor Stimac, Chettri said he cannot wait to wear the blue of India for the first time in Odisha.
"Me and the boys are very excited. It's strange that we have never played in Bhubaneswar or anywhere in Odisha before in my career, so we are really happy to be here. Everything from our hospitality to training pitches has been top-notch, and we have made good use of the three weeks here. Hopefully, we don't have just three games here but four (including the final)," said the skipper," Chettri said.
The Blue Tigers are all geared up to lift the trophy once again, and head coach Igor Stimac iterated that during the pre-tournament press conference on Thursday.
He said as quoted by an AIFF press release, "We are expecting to win the tournament, and that's why we're here. We will do everything possible to make that happen."
"Although our opponents (in the Intercontinental Cup) are not as tough as the teams we'll face in the Asian Cup, they are still good and competitive. Mongolia is a very aggressive side with a lot of young players in midfield and upfront. They press high press and play counter-attacking football. Even though they may find it difficult to adapt to the warm weather here, their players are arriving in competitive form as the Mongolian league is going on at the moment," said Stimac, sharing his thoughts on India's East Asian opponents. (ANI)