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Fifa World Cup qualifier: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu good to play in the big league, says Qatar star

Kolkata: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the tall and lanky Indian goalkeeper who prevented a rout against Asian champions Qatar in their 2022 World Cup qualifier & AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifier on Thursday night, came in for wholesome praise from the rival camp. Qatar, ranked several notches above India in Fifa rankings (58 while India are 105), earned a 1-0 victory against a 10-man India - though the margin could have been an embarassing one if not for Sandhu’s presence.

Felix Sanchez, the Qatar coach, summed it after the match: “We generated around 25 shots in the match and the goalkeeper played a great game once again. He was very good under the bar and made a huge difference. The next time we play again, we will not allow him to be at his best.”

“I didn’t count the number of saves. But I feel it was more than the last time,’’ Sanchez said, recalling Sandhu’s exploits when the Blue Tigers had held them to a goalless draw in the first round of the qualifier in September, 2019.

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Abdelkarim Hassan, Qatar’s experienced wing back, came up to congratulate Gurpreet when the teams were heading for the dressing rooms. “You should be playing in the Premier League – you are good enough. What are you doing here?” Abdelkarim, who had been foiled time and again by Sandhu during the match, was quoted as saying.

“The next time we play again, I will score past you,” Abdelkarim said, before adding: “Great job man. You are too good,”

‘‘We played with 10 men for most part of the match but we had our chances too,” Sandhu told the AIFF website. “Against such quality opposition like Qatar, such chances come very rare. We need to take them.”

“I have had good outings. But I’ve never had an opposition team player come to me and say that I am good enough to play in a big league. That’s a huge compliment,” the goalkeeper said.

Defender Sandesh Jhingan said: “Life in football is harsh. We still haven’t opened our account in Doha. We need to focus on the next one and then the next one.”

India’s next opponents Bangladesh put up a spirited display against Afghanistan, rallying to pull off a 1-1 draw. India play the Bangla Tigers next on June 7 (Monday).