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Need to be mentally strong, says Thapa ahead of qualifiers
The odds are stacked against the India football team ahead of the upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifiers in Qatar.
Because of the second coronavirus wave in the country, several players have had little to no practice in the last one-and-a-half months. To add insult to injury, the preparatory camp on home soil had to be called off due to the carnage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, the Igor Stimac-coached side has been given the green light to conduct its training camp in the host nation, in the lead-up to its matches against Qatar (on June 3), Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
While the national team has been thrown in the deep end, midfield metronome Anirudh Thapa stressed that the players are up for the challenge. “We were aware that our matches will be in June, but weren’t sure if we could make it as the pandemic is on,” Thapa, currently in quarantine in New Delhi, said at a virtual press conference.
“Our coaches and professor Luka Radman sent programmes to keep us fit. All of us trained the best we could in our homes. We knew that something big is coming up, so we did our duty,” added Thapa, who represents Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League.
India, which was last seen in action in March, is out of reckoning for a spot in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but is in the race to make it to the 2023 Asian Cup in China. Hardly been on grass for a while due to the current circumstances, Thapa admitted that the players would find it difficult to bring their A-game in the remaining qualifiers.
“The last few weeks have been difficult. Some of our close ones passed away because of COVID-19. In our mind, there is a fear of getting infected with the virus. But as professionals, we need to be prepared for what is coming up. We need to stay focussed and be mentally strong,” said the 23-year-old Thapa.
“We can do all we want, but on the back of our mind we know that we haven’t played a competitive game for some time now. It is difficult. The injury concern is also there. We aren’t aware of how our body will react to certain situations. However, the qualifiers are important and we will give our best in these tough times,” added Thapa.
Having last played a competitive fixture way back in November 2019, India is placed fourth in Group E with three points from five matches.
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