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'India will go mad if we qualify for FIFA World Cup'- Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri, the captain of Indian men's football team, says the whole country will go mad if the team manages to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

India will go mad if we qualify for FIFA World Cup- Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri, who made his debut in 2005, has played against the likes of Japan, Korea, Australia, Iran and Uruguay. (AIFF)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 9 Nov 2023 6:10 AM GMT

Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri says the day India will qualify for the FIFA World Cup, it will be a humongous day for the country.

"I have so many dreams about that day. It is going to be humongous," Sunil Chhetri told fifa.com.

India will feature in the 2026 FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers where they have been drawn in Group A along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. India will play Kuwait in an away match on November 16 before taking on Qatar in Bhubaneswar on November 21.

The group winners and runners-up from each of the nine groups will advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. The 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six teams in the third round.

The top two teams of each group will earn direct qualification to the USA, Mexico and Canada World Cup, as the third and fourth-placed teams advance to the fourth round, which will decide two more Asian qualifiers for the showpiece.

“When that happens, the country will go mad. As an Indian, it’s going to be one of the best days of my life. I have so many dreams about that day. It is going to be humongous," Chhetri added.

No retirement date set

Chhetri knows that he is in the 'bonus period' of his career but has not set any retirement date. However, he is sure that he has to enjoy the time he has got in his hands.

Talking before India's 2026 World Cup second-round qualifiers, Chhetri said, "I'm just happy that I'm here. This is the bonus period, I'm just enjoying it, I don't know when it's going to end. I just want to enjoy it."

"Because I'm 39, I don't have long-term targets as far as me being on the pitch is concerned. I think about the next three months, and then the next three months, and then we see how it goes," he said.

Chhetri will be 42 at the time of the 2026 World Cup, and he knows realistically that he won't be playing on the field at that time.

"When I dream, I dream more as an Indian, more as a fan. Me being there in any capacity, it doesn't matter, because I know I'll be a fan. I'll be watching every game that India plays and rooting for my country," said Chhetri.

"I don't know how many days, how many months, how many years that will be. The day I stop enjoying, and the day I can't contribute, I will be done," he added.

Chhetri has made 143 appearances for India since making his debut in 2005 and has scored 93 goals, the most by an Indian player. He is currently the third most prolific scorer in international football among active players, behind legendary Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

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