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Sunil Chhetri brace, Hero International Cup, Blue Tigers 2-0, Stephen Constatine

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Sunil Chhetri led from the front as The Blue Tigers roared in Hero International Cup

India’s future in football is bright. We are hearing it from last four years thanks to Indian Super League glamorous avatar to make football more interesting, but our next generation will certainly miss one of our greatest superstar – Sunil Chhetri. The Indian national football team captain certainly has taken the Indian football to a new level.

Sunil Chhetri led from the front as The Blue Tigers roared in Hero International Cup. India lifted the Hero International trophy beating Kenya 2-0 in the final thanks to Chhetri brace. It’s not only Chhetri’s brace in the final, the Indian captain was the talk of the town throughout the tournament.

Chhetri scored 8 goals in 4 matches during the campaign. He started with a hat-trick performance in a 5-0 victory against Chinese Taipei. Then scored a brace in the 3-0 win against Kenya in a group game, and goes on to the scoresheet in the 2-1 defeat against New Zealand as well, before finding a brace in final against Kenya again.

The Blues Captain scored in each game of the tournament. It takes his tally to 64 in international games leveling him with Argentina’s Lionel Messi. In current active international players, only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (81) is ahead of him. And considering his average with 64 goals in 102 matches, he even surpasses both of the current era football greats.

 The four nations’ team tournament organized by AIFF in India certainly has given meaning to our football. India wanted to play competitive teams in their preparation for AFC Cup 2019 and this tournament simply has offered them the competitiveness. However, all three of the participating teams are ranked lower than India in FIFA rankings but they are not far behind India.

India ranked 97 according to current FIFA rankings, whereas the participating team Kenya ranked 112, New Zealand ranked 120, and Chinese Tapei ranked 123. They haven’t been far from The Blues Tiger, but The Tigers roared in the tournament and Sunil Chhetri led from the front.

The tournament didn’t end up with the controversies but it only did more advertising for the Indian national team. The Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri wasn’t happy with the empty stadium in the opening game against Chinese Tapei and frustratingly he goes on to appeal on social media platform for spectators support.

Chhetri plead did work as the crowd makes a full house in the very next match, but Indian team coach Stephen Constantine wasn’t too happy about his captain pleading. He said, “Look, I have said it before and I don’t feel that we should be begging people to come and watch the national team. The response today was unbelievable, what I expect from the Blue Pilgrims and the rest of the people, it’s not only the Blue Pilgrims.”

He adds, “… But the national team is playing in the manner, we have been playing for last three and half years, and the things that we have achieved in three and half years, (and) we still feel disappointed to see such crowd in the last game.”

The turnaround was massive in the game against Kenya, which was also Sunil Chhetri’s 100th game in Blue colours. He is certainly going to remember his 100th cap for a long time. The record crowd turn-up in the 10,000 sitting capacity Mumbai Arena and he didn’t disappoint them. He scored a brace and followed that effort in the rest of the tournament as well.

The Blues Tiger certainly roared and Sunil Chhetri led them from the front. We are certainly a force to reckon in Asia. We hope 2019 AFC Cup will give us global recognition as well. It’s still a long time into making but the foundation has been set. Indian national football team coach Stephen Constantine is doing a great job in his second stint with the national side.


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