Tag: UEFA Europa League

I can’t take my place for granted – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

MUMBAI: India’s numero uno Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lauded Dheeraj Singh for his stupendous display in the FIFA U17 World Cup. “I have high hopes from Dheeraj because he is a very good prospect who can do a lot for this country,” Sandhu, the first Indian to ever played in the UEFA Europa League stated.

“Being the first choice (goalkeeper) so far has been good for me. But I can’t take my place for granted. And whoever the next one is, I hope he is better than me,” Sandhu opined.

On being asked about India’s prospect in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the custodian expressed: “We can’t be complacent and need to work hard. If we don’t put in our hard work, it will be difficult for us,” he mentioned. “We need to play at our best on those days. Otherwise, it won’t matter. Thailand, Bahrain are good teams and UAE being the home side will be a difficult side to deal with.”

Sandhu felt, Intercontinental Cup is a “good opportunity” for the team before the Continental championship and the team is ready to grab it.

“It is a very good platform for us to start building for AFC Asian Cup. We are lucky to have good opponents coming to India and giving us games. So we need to use it and make sure that we perform and learn from this experience. Make no mistake, New Zealand, Kenya and Chinese Taipei are tough teams.”

The 26-year-old Goalkeeper who made his International debut against Turkmenistan seven years back also added: “Chinese Taipei beat Bahrain recently and All Whites (New Zealand) need no introduction at all. Kenya have been a strong physical side and every team are going to give us different sort of problem.”

Everyone deserves credit including the bench: Sandhu

NEW DELHI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first Indian Footballer to play in the UEFA Europa Cup feels the team has “become stronger as a unit with every passing game.” In a freewheeling interview, Sandhu speaks at length about the significance of qualifying to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the changes in the squad, the resilient back-four, the art of defending and much more. EXCERPTS:

What does it mean for you to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019?

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.

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.

What has changed in the squad in the last 12 months?

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.

The Goalkeeper and the back four’s contribution often goes unnoticed. What are the strengths of India’s back four?

Such is the nature of the game (laughs aloud), but I need to put this straight. 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.

Which has been the most satisfying victory in recent times?

To me the away victory against Myanmar followed by the victory against the Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru will always stay on the top of the list (so far). Both Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic are extremely good sides who are very difficult to play against. Victories in those two matches put us in a very advantageous position to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Bengaluru strengthen attack, sign Venezuela International Miku

 

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC have added more firepower to their frontline with the signing of Venezuelan International striker Nicolas ‘Miku’ Ladislao Fedor Flores ahead of their debut Indian Super League season, the club announced on Tuesday. The 32-year-old who signed a two-year deal, arrives to Bengaluru from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano with whom he spent the last two-and-a-half seasons.

The 6’ 1” attacker will team up with Spaniard Braulio Nobrega at the front and becomes the Blues’ seventh foreign signing for the season and the first ever South American player at the club.

Head Coach Albert Roca was delighted with the newest addition to the squad and said, “I’m extremely happy to have secured the services of Miku. He is an exciting player with some great skills and his playing style will help us a lot. Miku has played for several top clubs for a number of years now, and the experience he brings in will be very crucial for us this season.”

Having completed formalities, an excited Miku said, “I have heard a lot about the club and the city. We have some great players in the club who always fight for titles, so I hope it will be a good season for every one of us in Bengaluru. I spoke to Albert Roca about the club, the league and the team. He’s a very good and experienced coach and explained to me what he wants from me for this season. I can’t wait to join my teammates and begin training.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela to a Hungarian father and a Venezuelan mother, Miku began his football career in Spanish powerhouse Valencia’s youth system. Turning professional in 2004 with the Mestella-side, the striker turned out for CD Alcoyano (2004-05, 2nd B), UD Salamanca (2005–06, 2nd B), Ciudad de Murcia (2006, 2nd), Valencia ‘B’ (2007, 2nd B), Gimnastic de Tarragona (2007–08, 2nd), UD Salamanca (2008–09, 2nd) in the Spanish league system. His highlight during this period was striking 18 goals in the promotion winning campaign at Salamanca during the 2005-06 Segunda ‘B’ season.

The striker returned back to parent club Valencia for the 2009-10 La Liga season, before moving in the heart of Spain to Getafe. His four-year spell with the Madrid-based club saw him amass 26 La Liga goals in 90-plus appearances. Miku also had short loan spell with Glasgow-based Celtic FC in 2012-13 where he won the Scottish League and Cup double.

The following season, the Venezuelan moved out of Europe for his first spell in Asia where he represented Al-Gharafa SC (2013-15) in the Qatar Stars League. In January 2015, Miku returned to Spain to join Rayo Vallecano, another Madrid-based club. The striker settled in quickly and began firing all guns blazing in the 2015-16 season. In February 2016, he became the first Venezuelan to score in four consecutive Spanish top flight matchdays, winning La Liga’s Player of the Month award. That season Miku netted nine times and assisted four goals in 22 appearances for Rayo in the La Liga finishing their joint second-highest top-scorer in the league.

At the continental level, Miku has represented Celtic in the UEFA Champions League while playing in the UEFA Europa League for Getafe and Valencia, also scoring a hattrick in the competition for the latter.

A full international since 2006, Miku has 51 caps for Venezuela and has scored 11 times, most notably against Brazil in the during the 2015 Copa America in Chile. The striker also helped his team to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 Copa America held in Argentina. Interestingly, the striker has already played in India as a part of the Venezuela team which faced Argentina in an International Friendly in Kolkata back in September 2011.

For the record, Miku is the fifth-highest (joint) goalscorer for the Venezuelan national team and is 23rd (joint) in the list of most caps for his country.

Bengaluru FC sign Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC have completed a major signing for the 2017-18 campaign, roping in Indian National team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from Norwegian side Stabaek FC for an undisclosed transfer amount, the club announced on Thursday.

While securing the services of India’s No.1 goalkeeper, the Blues have also completed the official paperwork in time for him to be part of the 2017 AFC Cup campaign. The lad from Chandigarh will be available for selection for the home leg of the crucial Inter-Zonal semifinal against North Korean side April 25 SC on August 23.

Gurpreet who completed formalities on a one-year deal on Wednesday night, becomes the first Indian player to be signed from a European club by an Indian club in a move involving a transfer fee.

The keeper, who arrived in Bengaluru on Thursday, was ecstatic ahead of the newest chapter in his career. “I’m extremely delighted to have signed for Bengaluru FC. While the experience of playing in Europe was fantastic, lack of game time was an important factor in making the decision of moving back to India. I had an offer from another top-flight club in Europe, but the need to play regularly ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 was something that was on my mind.”

“The fact that Bengaluru FC was interested in me was encouraging considering what they have achieved over the last few years. With BFC playing on the continental level this season as well as the next one will provide the perfect platform for me,” he added.

Club CEO Parth Jindal was pleased with the Blues’ latest acquisition. “It’s a matter of pride that Gurpreet has chosen to play for BFC. For us, he as big as an European signing. His presence and leadership will add immense stability to the team. While he is with us we will provide him with all the support he needs to be back among Europe’s elite.”

Having already played in front of the Blues’ faithful on a number of occasions while representing India, Gurpreet is eager to take the field at the Fortress. “The fans here are fantastic. The atmosphere we had at the Kanteerava was unbelievable and probably one of the best I’ve seen. I’m now excited to be playing in front of them on a regular basis and hope we can achieve something special.”

Turning pro in 2010 where he had a brief loan spell with AIFF’s developmental side Pailan Arrows (2010-11), Gurpreet returned to East Bengal, going on to become the first-choice custodian in the latter part of his three-year spell. At East Bengal, Gurpreet won the 2012 Federation Cup apart from topping the Calcutta Football League on numerous occasions.

Standing tall at 6’ 4”, Gurpreet moved to Europe as a 22-year-old, signing for Norwegian club Stabaek in August 2014 where he featured in a number of cup games, including the entire 2016 Cup run. He eventually made his League debut in May 2016 in an away match against IK Start, and in the process, became the first Indian footballer to play in a European top division league. In June 2016, the Punjabi lad put another feather in his cap, becoming the first Indian footballer to feature in a UEFA Europa League match by playing against Welsh side Connah’s Quay Nomads FC in the competition’s qualifiers.

Having represented India (U19 & U22) numerous times at the youth level, Gurpreet was called up to the senior national team for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and made his debut couple months later in the AFC Challenge Cup. After playing second fiddle to Subrata Paul, Gurpreet finally cemented his position as India’s number one during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers while even skippering the side on a few occasions.

FC Pune City confirms Marcelinho signing

PUNE: FC Pune City have made an exciting splash into the ISL transfer market with the signing of Brazilian forward Marcelo Leite Pereira for the upcoming season of Indian Super League.

Better known as Marcelinho, the 30-year-old turned out for Delhi Dynamos in the previous season of ISL and finished as league’s top scorer with 10 goals in 14 matches.

The left winger who can also play on the right wing and as a striker is known for his creativity and lethal speed and is a crucial addition to the Antonio Lopez Habas-coached side.

Hailing from Rio de Janeiro, Marcelinho is a well-travelled player having played in Spain, Italy, Greece and Brazil. The winger who can double up as a striker has played for various clubs like Skoda Xanthi, Catania, Atromotis, Anapolis and Atletico Madrid B.

He was also part of the Atromotis’s UEFA Europa League squad and his best performance came against AIK Solna in 2015, in the preliminary round, where he scored a goal and assisted one to be named the man of the match.

Having secured the services of an impact player such as Marcelinho, the Stallions, who never progressed beyond the league phase of ISL, would definitely fancy their chances for the upcoming season starting in November.