2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to lead the Indian football team against the Kyrgyz Republic
What's the story?
In the absence of regular captain Sunil Chhetri, No.1 choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is set to don the captain's armband in India's final AFC Cup qualification game against the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday, 27th March, 2018.
In case you didn't know...
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made his debut for the Blue Tigers back in 2011 during the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers after coming up through the India U-19 and India U-23 teams. He has been capped 20 times for the national team so far.
Sandhu is the first Indian player to play in the first division of a top-division European club when he signed for Norwegian club Stabæk. He even became the first Indian player to play in the UEFA Europa League.
The heart of the matter
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been handed over the captaincy duties by National team coach Stephen Constantine for the AFC Cup qualification match against the Kyrgyz Republic.
Sandhu took over the reigns in the absence of star striker and captain Sunil Chhetri, who has been suspended after being booked twice during the group matches. The lanky goalkeeper from Punjab will have his work cut out to lead the Blues against a resilient Kyrgyz side who will have the home advantage in their favour.
This will be the third time in his international career that Gurpreet will lead the Indian side out onto the pitch. The first instance was back in 2016 when India faced Puerto Rico in an international friendly in Mumbai that India famously won 4-1. Sandhu was handed the armband in the next friendly as well when India took on Cambodia.
The Indian national team will face the Kyrgyz Republic tomorrow in the final game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers in Bishkek where they will fight for the top spot in the Group A.
Gurpreet Sandhu's elevation to the captaincy shows that India has credible options in the absence of talisman Sunil Chhetri to lead the side. It will be interesting to see how the custodian steps up to the role and motivates his teammates.