New Delhi [India], Oct 12 (ANI): Less than a day to go for a faceoff between India and China in a historic friendly football match in Suzhou, Indian national football team captain Sunil Chhetri has said that the team's performance is more important for him than his personal goals.
The two national teams will lock horns after a gap of 21 years at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium. In the last meeting, which took place in the Nehru Cup tournament in Kochi in 1997, China piped India 2-1.
In an interview with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Chhetri said, "I have never thought about my personal goals. If you focus on personal goals, then you'll go in a different direction where you don't actually want to head. We are a team and that's the most important thing. I'm one of the senior players, actually, the senior most player (chuckles) and I have my responsibility towards the team. What we achieve individually is important but it's never ever more than the team does."
Talking about the high-stake clash against China on Saturday, Chhetri said that he is excited as the team are facing the Red Dragons after a long time.
Admitting that China's dominance at home would be a tough challenge for the team, the 'Captain Fantastic' elucidated, "I'm happy that we are playing a team like China. It's strange that we are playing them after so long. We should have played them more often. I'm very excited because they are a quality opponent and they have always been a respected side in Asia. To face them at their home is going to be a tough challenge but this is a challenge that we should face now. Our form away from home hasn't been particularly very good. This is a great opportunity for us to take a good account of ourselves."
Lauding Chinese football team coach Marcelo Lippi for making the side dangerous at their home ground, Chhetri said that it would be a perfect challenge for his team to give their best.
"China is one of the Asian teams who are doing really great in football of late. The league has gone from strength to strength and the national team has benefitted from that under a respectable coach like Marcelo Lippi. That's going to be the perfect challenge that we need to assess ourselves. We have done really well in the last couple of years but now it'll help us gauge ourselves before the Asian Cup," he added.
When quizzed whether it would be a huge test for the defenders to deliver, the 34-year-old football star said that his team has to do "a lot of defending" and try to gain an upper hand in the upcoming match.
"We have to defend really well. By the look and feel, I believe we have to do a lot of defending. We should not afford them much space. At the same time, whenever we find a little room of opportunity, we have to construct the moves and counter them. To sum it up, it's a game where we must be at the top of our game in every single department. If we are not being able to combine well and operate as a team, then they'll make us struggle a lot," Chhetri said.
Out of the 17 face-offs between India and China so far, the Red Dragons have won on 12 occasions. The rest of the five matches ended in a stalemate.
Chhetri further went on to say that the Indian football team had to improve their overseas record and that the clash against China would provide them with a good opportunity to make improvements.
"We haven't done particularly well away from our home. We need to better our records and it's the time to do so. I just hope we can utilise this opportunity to go back and give a good account of ourselves. We have to convince ourselves first that yes, we are improving," he said. (ANI)