I always dream big, and I believe my best is yet to come. But since I made my international debut for India in 2015, this one is historic. To come to Doha, and play against the Asian champions, and take away a point from their kitty is a really big thing, I am really happy and now we have to make sure we keep our feet on the ground.
However, there’s no denying that after the Oman game there was a slight feeling of disappointment in the team. Looking back, we still feel we should have taken points from that. In such a situation, we were aware of the task in hand. We respected Qatar to the fullest -- they are the Asian champions and the kind of football they play is beautiful to watch. They are a good team, have a really good coach and are in great form as well.
We headed to the Qatar match with nothing to lose. Before this game I had a feeling that we could take something away from it. I always say ‘it's about dreaming big, if you can dream big, you can achieve big goals.’ I am extremely proud of this team, the characters and personalities associated with it. They are just so big.
In the team meeting we stuck to the basics -- do the work, stay disciplined, stick to the system keeping the right mindset.
Moving on, we need to be realistic. The forthcoming matches in October, and November are too crucial. If we don't win against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and manage away points from the Oman game, this point won't matter much. To value this hard earned point, we need to win our other games. We are getting better as a team, and as individuals. If we keep working like this, the sky is the limit for this batch.
Sunil-bhai's presence in the dressing room was a big miss against Qatar. He's the leader of the team. We were feeling bad for him because I know how badly he wanted to play. But that’s life, and that’s football.
But I have always had confidence in the players around me. And when I look around, my confidence grows. Gurpreet is one of the best in Asia at the moment, and players like Udanta, Chhangte, Sahal, Brandon, Thapa Ashique are all God’s gift to Indian Football.
I need to make a special mention about Manvir. He had an exceptional game, won 80-90% headers, held up the ball very well, and gave us that breather and those flick-ons to the flanks. It’s the best I have seen him play, and that talks of the improvement in the squad.
We defended with our lives. We stuck to the basics, and Adil, Rahul, and Mandar and myself backed each other up. We were together, the communication was sublime, we were solid at the back.
Nevertheless, there were some errors, and as we head back, we will review the video of the game, check how we played. That’s the speciality of this team. Our work starts immediately after the final whistle, and we never rest on laurels.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that Xavi was at the stadium. If I knew I would have loved to see him. He is such a legend and it's an honour that he was there.