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Football

Sunil Chhetri: Top five goals for the Indian national team

As the legendary Indian captain calls it a day, we at The Bridge take a look at five of his very best goals for the nation.

Sunil Chhetri: Top five goals for the Indian national team
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Sunil Chhetri has scored 94 goals in 150 appearances for the national team. (File Photo: AIFF)

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 16 May 2024 1:30 PM GMT

Sunil Chhetri is a name that is known world over, certainly throughout India. For most Indian football fans, he was their idol. Many followed the national team thanks to his heroics on the pitch.

The swashbuckling striker glided with ease on the football pitch and pulled in people in a way no other Indian footballer ever could. He is the fourth all time leading active goal scorer for country, with 94 strikes in 150 appearances, and he has now decided to hang up his boots on a truly remarkable career.

In a video message, he has announced that the game against Kuwait on June 6 would be his final time walking on to the green top as the Indian captain, as a footballer. His illustrious career, spanning nearly two decades, has been a beacon of inspiration for millions of football enthusiasts across the globe.

As people come to grips with the reality of not seeing the familiar figure in the national team name sheet anymore, we at The Bridge have shortlisted five of the very best goals he has scored for the country that brought the crowd on its knees for the magician.

A training ground replica against Lebanon

This goal in itself might not be much, as it is a simple tap in for Chhetri, but it was how it came about that carries the goal.

Playing against Lebanon in the final of the 2023 Hero Intercontinental Cup, the Indian team executed a prime Barcelona-esque tiki taka sequence that resulted in the goal.

Lallianzuala Chhangte received the ball in the right half space and did a quick give and go with Nikhil Poojray before getting past the defence and squaring it for Chhetri who finished it with a simple tap.

"We had trained the same movement in training multiple times. you know, when something that you have trained for a long and it happens on the pitch, you feel so satisfied," remarked Chhetri to AIFF recalling the goal.

A volley of dreams

While the other goal was about teamwork and replicating training ground drills, this one was all on Sunil Chhetri himself.

This goal was special in many ways. For one, it was a sweetly struck volley on his weak foot that also was the winning goal against Vanuatu in the 2023 Hero Intercontinental Cup.

But most importantly, as part of the goal celebration, Chhetri announced to the world that he was having a baby. A sweet gesture for the sweetest of volleys!

A freekick Messi would be proud of

It was the 2013 SAFF. India are playing Bangladesh and are heading towards a defeat after a late Bangladeshi goal saw them trail 0-1.

India got a freekick at the edge of the box in stoppage time and up stepped Sunil Chhetri. Of course, he put it in the top corner to salvage a draw for India.

When in trouble, you can always rely upon Sunil Chhetri to deliver the goods!

A left footed rocket

Chhetri holds this goal dearly to his heart. "I remember it because of the technique on that goal. I scored that from outside the box. It was a neat finish," he said to AIFF.

It was against Oman in a World Cup qualifier game in 2019, held in Guwahati. In a cleverly worked freekick, Chhetri managed to get himself free before unleashing a rocket into the bottom corner leaving the opposition stunned.

A chip that left everyone in awe

There are a variety of ways to score a goal in football. Whilst it is the overhead kicks or volleys that get the most attention, chipping the goalkeeper when he is off the line is easily the most stylish way to score a goal.

Sunil Chhetri did just that against Kenya in the 2018 Hero Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai. Facing the keeper one on one, the Indian skipper executed a delicious chip that left the goalkeeper looking helpless, in what was Chhetri's 100th international cap for India.

A sight to behold, that goal and even Chhetri himself seems to be in awe of that. "Chipping the ball from that position was a rather difficult task. I keep watching it again and again. I'm really proud of myself for that goal," he recollected.

As Sunil Chhetri hangs up his boots, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of footballers in India and beyond.

Chhetri’s ability to deliver under pressure, his unwavering commitment, and his remarkable consistency have set a benchmark for excellence.

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