Prabshsukhan Singh Gill may have won the golden glove in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will likely start in goal when India come out on top against Bahrain on Wednesday.
“The position of the goalkeeper is extremely important and for such an important match we have to stick to our goalkeeper No. 1. He has been training with us for 10-11 days and we try to bring him back to his best. I am not for change in this position, “India head coach Igor Stimac said on Tuesday.
Sandhu had a regular ISL, managing three clean sheets in 15 games for Bengaluru FC; Gill had seven in 20 in his breakout season with Kerala Blasters.
At a virtual media conference from Bahrain, Stimac said that seven players from the team of 25 “were still waiting in Mumbai for visas we had applied for almost two months ago.” Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, left-back Akash Mishra, central defender Chinglensana Singh, midfielders Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Williams, Aniket Jadhav and Bipin Singh are still available, Stimac said.
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In addition to Gill, Stimac has selected six new players in the hall of 25 for these friendly matches. They are: fullback Roshan Singh, who won ISL’s Emerging Player of the Year, central defenders Ruivah Hormipam and Anwar Ali, midfielders Jadhav and Danish Farooq, and forward VP Suhair. Three Mumbai City FC players, Rahul Bheke, Singh and Apuia, will be released on Wednesday to help them prepare for their Asian Champions League games.
The last time India played against Bahrain was in the Asian Cup of 2019. Due to a draw needed to qualify for the round of 16, India lost 0-1 through the penalty kick of Jamal Rashid in the stoppage time of the second half. “For every Indian, that was heartbreaking,” said central defender Sandesh Jhingan, who was also part of the interaction. “But that’s football. But honestly we have not done enough. I know I could have done better,” Jhingan said. India sat too deep in that game and Jhingan said, “sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
That is not the approach India will take, Stimac said. “I want to see a positive attitude, see the team use the middle and high press and take certain risks to try and then use more ball.” Wednesday’s game is not about trying to score yourself, but about getting better, Jhingan said.
With 89, Bahrain is 15 slots above India (104) on the Fifa rankings. They won their last two matches, 3-1 against Uganda and 1-0 away against DR Congo, earlier this year. Belarus, who play India on Saturday, are in 94th place.
Stimac said the idea of playing these friendly matches, India’s first matches since winning the SAFF Championship in October 2021, “is to control where we stand.” The pace will be different than ISL and a player like Liston Colaco will not get as much space, he said. “I told him he could not get too close to the defenders because then he would lose the ball.”
Jhingan, 28, has had a difficult season due to injuries. He signed for HNK Sibenik in Croatia but could not play due to injury and returned to ATK Mohun Bagan in January. Asked how far he was from the level of the 2019 World Cup and Asian Cup qualifier against Qatar which ended 0-0 in Doha, Jhingan said: “We will see tomorrow. But I do not want the Sandesh Jhingan of that year. I want to be a better version of that. ” Stimac added: “He is a better player every day. His communication skills are excellent; he is super positive and was one of the best passers-by in the ISL. Today’s Sandesh Jhingan is better than he was in Qatar.