Yangon: India skipper Sunil Chhetri, who had struck a hat-trick in the final when India won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, stressed on the importance of not resting on past laurels and said he is focussed on leading the team's campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers.
Ahead of the opener against Chinese Taipei here on Saturday, Chhetri said the team would take no outfit lightly in the competition in its bid to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup finals in Maldives. "I just hope that I can live up to the expectations. As a player, it never comes to my mind as to which tournament or match I am playing. I have always had one aim to do well for my country. This is a very important tournament for us and we, as a team, will give everything we have," Chhetri told www.the-aiff.com.
"Chinese Taipei and Myanmar are very good teams especially Myanmar, as they are playing at home. But first things first, and at the moment, we are concentrating on our first match against Chinese Taipei. We need to take one match at a time," he said.
India have been clubbed with hosts Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and Guam in Group A. They play Chinese Taipei in their first match followed by games against Guam and hosts Myanmar on March 4 and March 6 respectively.
Twenty countries have been divided into five groups of four with the quartet playing against each other in a one-round league in a centralised venue. The five group winners and two best second-placed teams will join host nation Maldives at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup finals.
India's second highest scorer with 38 goals behind Bhaichung Bhutia's 42, Chhetri said he was happy with his signing for I-league club Churchill Brothers on loan, but admitted the responsibility has come with an added pressure. "It's good, but at the same time, it's an added pressure.
There will be expectations as we are in contention to win the I-League this season. I have played two matches for them and am looking forward to joining them after the campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup 2014," he said. Chhetri has taken a four-month break from his foreign stint with Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon.
Talking about their 2-4 loss to Palestine in an international friendly match early last month, Chhetri said it was a tale of two contrasting halves. "It was a tale of seven drastic minutes and we have nobody to blame. The positive part stays that we were the better team in the first half. But at this level, there can't be any room for excuses. We need to ensure that such a phase never hits us again. It's past for us but at the same time have taught us a lesson. We are working hard on that," he said.
Asked whether he believes the fans have become a bit impatient, the 28-year-old said, "I'd say it's a normal reaction. Fans expect us to win every match and I don't blame them at all. It's all about the mentality. I try not to be bothered by it and carry on doing my job. Success and failures and the reaction will come and go," he signed off.