England, Pickford yet to be fully tested: Sandhu

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After a hectic season that has seen him spend a few months in a bio bubble, then join another with the national team for its remaining World Cup qualifying fixtures, India and Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu says he is finally getting the chance to have some food cooked by his mother.

Sandhu recently returned from Doha after completing his national team duties. Despite personally earning praise for his performances in goal, India ended the campaign on a disappointing note, with a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan in the last group match seeing them finish with seven points from eight games.

But that is in the past now. With some time off this summer, Sandhu is following the European Championship from home and has also taken up the role of a pundit with Sony Sports Network, the Indian broadcasters of the competition.

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Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and German skipper Manuel Neuer, says Sandhu, are the goalkeepers whose performances have impressed him the most. “Donnarumma because of his calmness but also I would say Manuel Neuer. He has been conceding goals but his presence in that team is crucial. He is in a leadership role right now and he is really helping the team out, starting from the back, helping transition from defence to attack,” he said in a video chat.

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Donnarumma and England keeper Jordan Pickford are the only two remaining goalkeepers yet to concede a goal in this competition but Sandhu believes they haven’t faced the stiffest of tests yet. “I think with Donnarumma I can safely say that he hasn’t been (tested) that much to be honest. From the games that we have seen, Italy’s defence is known for being so strong and they have been showing not only in the Euros but before this as well,” said Sandhu.

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“With Pickford, he has been (tested) but I think the England team has not been tested fully yet and I think now they we will be. And we will see how good Pickford will be.”

The 29-year-old Sandhu also offered his sympathies to Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who made an astonishing howler to give Spain the lead before conceding four more goals in their final group game. “I think goalkeepers are accustomed to being told that mistakes are something that cannot be a part of their game if they are to be successful. But as everyone knows, we are human and mistakes do happen,” said Sandhu.

“The most important aspect for a goalkeeper is to forget that mistake while in the game. It’s important to get back from it and move on. I have made my fair share of mistakes and there were times when I couldn’t sleep properly after games where you get so mentally affected because you feel the onus of the result is on you. But that’s a part of the job.”

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Also read | Well-drilled Sweden proving to be no pushover at Euro 2020

On being asked about the application of VAR at the Euros, Sandhu said the technology in general has a lot of scope for improvement. He particularly pointed out the penalty awarded to France for their first-half equaliser against Portugal as an example of how VAR hasn’t intervened at times when necessary.

“I think the people at the top need time, more experience with this. They have made so many mistakes or decisions that in a normal footballing world shouldn’t be the case. I think with experience and with using VAR in every tournament, they will get the hang of it. They should know when to call for a penalty or when to give an offside or not,” he said.

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“If you see some of the decisions, like in the game between France and Portugal, you feel like it shouldn’t be a penalty with (Kylian) Mbappe falling down in the box. That was really soft. That’s where you should have the VAR to make rational decisions when the referees on the pitch have failed to do so. I think VAR should be used in a proper way. It can harm a team and it can also save a team. It’s not a balanced thing for me.”

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