“We have to have that dream to be in the World Cup, and it is a dream I also have,” Jhingan told FIFA.com. “It is something I want to achieve like crazy before I hang up my boots. If I don’t achieve it as a player, I will do everything I can to help India qualify by coaching.”
“But we have to understand we have to take steps towards it. The Asian Cup last year and all these things are stepping stones towards that bigger dream.”
Jhingan said that India’s performance at the 2019 Asian Cup, where they came close to sealing a spot at the knockout stage for the first time since 1964, and their subsequent draw against free scoring continental champions Qatar away from home showed how far the team has come.
“It (last year’s Asian Cup) was a good learning experience,” said Jhingan. “You have to do your best and if it doesn’t go the way you wanted, you have to learn from it.
“Things have gone really well [in recent years]. We went four matches without conceding and we had a 13-match unbeaten run.
“We felt we could get the winner towards the end [against Qatar in World Cup qualifying], and that shows how much our mentality has improved as a national team.”
Jhingan said that he had always aspired to play for the Indian team throughout his childhood.
“Other Asian kids want to play for Man United, Real Madrid, but as a kid I always dreamed of playing for India,” said Jhingan.
“I remember when I was 14, 15 watching the national team, and scrawling at school what formation we should play, and sharing ideas with my friends.
“I love my country so much. I have always had this pride. When I left the national team camp as a teenager in 2010, I promised myself I would never sing the national anthem until I made the national team.
“On 12 March 2015, I made my debut for the national team and I finally got to sing the national anthem, and I have never sung it so loudly. I got a tattoo to mark the date. Even now, when I get a national team call-up, I make a small prayer. It is great to play for 1.3 billion people and do my best for them.”