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Jhingan recalls night of pain and promises

Sunday, January 13, 2019
Sandesh Jingan-India

Sharjah: India defender Sandesh Jhingan has admitted that he was brought to tears as a child when his nation suffered a 5-2 defeat to Bahrain in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup as the sides prepare for their crucial meeting in Group A of the 2019 edition at Sharjah Stadium on Monday.

Exactly eight years ago to the day, and with Jhingan now an established member of the side, the two teams will lock horns once more with qualification to the knockout stage on the line and India knowing if they avoid defeat they will most probably secure their place in the last 16.

For Jhingan, meanwhile, the game will carry extra significance as he recalls only too well the pain of defeat in the continental competition. And with the chance to progress to the knockout rounds in his side’s own hands, the Kerala Blasters man is truly realising a lifelong dream.

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“As a kid, I was really into the national team so when we qualified for the [2011] Asian Cup, I was so pumped up,” revealed 25-year-old Jhingan.

“When we lost against Bahrain I couldn’t control myself, I started crying. My brother was sitting there with me and I didn’t want to cry in front of him because he’s my older brother and he would bully me, so I went to the washroom and I cried.

“I was making promises to myself, saying: 'One day, I’ll get in the national team and we’ll qualify.' It’s funny that now I’m here and we’ll play Bahrain on the same date that we played them in 2011.

“It’s crazy – even if I had the chance to write my own future I wouldn’t have been able to write such a beautiful thing. It makes football more romantic, and I’m lucky to experience this moment.”

With the United Arab Emirates topping the standings on four points and both India and Thailand on three, Group A is tantalisingly poised ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Bahrain may be bottom with a solitary point, but a win for the West Asians may guarantee their own place in the next round while, even if India lose, there remains a chance they could advance as one of the highest-ranked third-placed teams.

With Bahrain needing to chase the victory, Jhingan could be in for a busy night in Sharjah as the Blue Tigers aim to go beyond the group stage for the first time and write a new chapter into the country’s footballing history.

“I love it when teams come at you with full force, I really enjoy defending a lot,” added Jhingan.

“When the balls are put in, when you have to make tackles… I really enjoy that. Games like this I genuinely love because they test you to the limit and let you know how good you are.

“[To qualify] would be immense for the nation. It would be huge, massive and I genuinely believe that we can do it.

“Hopefully we can put in a good performance, show the same character, desire and commitment to win, stick to the plan and stay united no matter what. If we can do that, I think the result will follow.”

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