Indian men’s football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu feels the friendlies against tough opponents like Oman and UAE will help the Blue Tigers test themselves as they return to international action after more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian men’s team is set to play two international friendlies — against Oman on March 25 and United Arab Emirates on March 29 in Dubai.
“It’s a brilliant piece of news not just for us players but for Indian Football overall that we will be playing again at the International arena,” Sandhu was quoted as saying in an All India Football Federation (AIFF) release.
“Both the matches are against very tough oppositions whom we would love to play against, and test ourselves.
“With International sports having shut down owing to the pandemic situation, I am aware as to how difficult it is to arrange matches under the current scenario,” he added.
The Blue Tigers last played at the international arena — in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan (in Tajikistan) and Oman (in Muscat) in November 2019.
Sandhu feels it will be a big boost as the players will head to the camp straight after the Indian Super League and will have momentum on their side.
“The two friendlies happening straight after the Indian Super League will be a big boost. Most of the boys will be in momentum and heading straight to the national camp.
“That’s what the players always love to have that continuity heading into International Football. We are all looking forward to the boys going out and giving their best.”
Central defender Sandesh Jhingan dubbed the forthcoming two matches as “massive”.
“It’s a great piece of news which the entire nation was waiting for. It’s massive for the fans, and for us players as well as we haven’t played an International match in the last one and half years,” he said.
“It’s important for us to get back into the system of Igor Stimac, start training and improving,” he added.
As part of the preparation for the two matches against Oman and UAE, the national team will assemble in a preparatory camp in Dubai from March 15 onwards.
“There are crucial games coming up in June which would be followed by the Qualifiers of the Asian Cup China 2023. The camp in March are just extra days to train and improve together as a team. I am extremely happy,” Jhingan said.