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Fierce competition from age-group squads need of hour: Chhetri

New Delhi, Nov 8 (PTI) The Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri says fierce competition for places from the bench and age-group squads will help in developing a strong national side.

The arrival of a new breed of players like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan and Udanta Singh have been a welcome change in the national team, and Chhetri, India's highest scorer in internationals with 55 goals, rates them highly.

"I will always put my money on them. In fact, I will be very disappointed if the trio doesn't dominate Indian football for the next decade. I also hope they get tough competition, with the U-17 and the U-16 squads pushing them further.

"Those batches are showing a lot of promise and doing well for us. The more the youth push their seniors, the better it is for the entire squad," Chhetri said.

The talismanic striker felt playing in the 2019 Asian Cup will give the team and the players a fair idea of where they stand.

"Top level of Asian football is today probably just a notch below the global elite. The top 2-3 teams in Asia like Iran, South Korea and Japan are in fact at par. Playing at such levels will help us gauge where we lie as a group as well as individual players vis a vis the top echelons of world football.

"That's of paramount importance as Indian football moves forward. The movement forward needs to be a continuous process and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 should be a first stepping stone to that process as we rub shoulders with the best in Asia."

He said not qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia remains a regret and it lingers.

"I hope the players utilise the opportunities to cement their place in the squad. At the same time there always needs to be a healthy competition from the bench to take the places in the starting XI

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