New Delhi: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first Indian footballer to play in the UEFA Europa Cup, believes the national team has "become stronger as a unit with every passing game."
When quizzed about the changes that took place in the squad in the last 12 months, the goalkeeper insisted that the team became more consistent in their performances and that the work rate had been exceptional.
"I think we have become stronger as a unit with every passing game. The work rate has been exceptional and the biggest plus point stays that we have been consistent for the last 12 months. The results are ample proof of that," he said.
Meanwhile, Sandhu credited the entire squad for qualifying in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 while admitting that making it to the prestigious tournament was a priority for him.
"The last time in 2011 I was in the squad and it was a huge experience for me. Since then, qualifying for another edition of the AFC Asian Cup had been a priority for me," he said.
"The Asian Cup is a stage where you would want to play in your career simply because you get to play against the best in Asia, all of whom are very talented players. It's the platform from where you can learn a lot to mature as a player," the Indian goalkeeper added.
India had earlier secured a direct qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1984 after crushing Macau 4-1 in their third qualifier match of Group A at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
India are placed in Group A, alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau, and by winning the first four games in their group, India picked up an unassailable lead to qualify for the next year's event in the UAE.
Heaping praise over his entire squad for the qualification, Sandhu said, "Our good run cannot be attributed to just the back four or the goalkeeper or the midfielders or the strikers. The whole team needs to be credited including the bench. In all of our games, we have defended together as a team and have stayed patient for our breakthroughs."
India's forthcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Myanmar is slated to be held on November 14.