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Sunil Chhetri urges team calmness and hard work ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

Sunil Chhetri sets a record every time he steps onto the pitch. It will be no different when he leads India into Round 2 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Joint Qualification campaign.

Sunil Chhetri urges team calmness and hard work ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

Sunil Chhetri (Image via AIFF)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 13 Nov 2023 12:56 PM GMT

Sunil Chhetri, the seasoned captain of the Indian football team, shared insights into the team's readiness for the upcoming pre-World Cup journey. Chhetri, who is set to make his fourth appearance in the quadrennial tournament, holds an impressive record of 20 matches, a feat unparalleled in Indian football history.

Despite being the top scorer for India in pre-World Cup matches with nine goals to his name, Chhetri remains unwavering in his commitment to pursuing his dreams. Currently undergoing intense training sessions with the National Team in Dubai under the guidance of coach Igor Stimac, Chhetri took a moment to discuss India's chances in the opening away tie against Kuwait, his young and talented teammates, and his enduring contribution to Indian football over 17 years.

On India's World Cup Qualifier campaign:

Sunil Chhetri: "I think we are at the right stage. This team probably is a strong side. Also, I must admit that we are in a strong group. Some really good sides are clubbed with us. But I think we are prepared, barring a few injuries here and there. It's a team that has played together for some time. And a lot of youngsters are there. Yes, we look good."

Sunil Chhetri

On the Team's transformation:

Sunil Chhetri: "I think it is just the morale of the team, or what has happened in the last six, eight months. A lot of boys have taken their places in the team. And that is why we are probably more prepared."

On facing familiar opponents:

Sunil Chhetri: "So I think whenever we play these teams, we might play good or bad, but we will not be surprised by what we are playing against. Barring the away tie in Kuwait, we are aware of the atmosphere for the away matches against Afghanistan and Qatar. So that is why I said we are more prepared. At home, we have done decently well. In away games, we haven't. If we have to go to the next round and be among the 18 best teams in Asia, we have to rectify our method."

On team unity and hard work:

Sunil Chhetri: "Our team has always relied on hard work, team spirit, and being together. A lot of other teams have individual flair and other things. Probably, we are not that team. And I've got no qualms in accepting that. I think I want to restrain myself from talking about the injuries because I think a lot of importance has been given to the injuries of some of the team members. I love them. They know it, and I'll miss them. But it's done. It's gone. If you see the stats of (Lallianzuala) Chhangte, Mahesh (Naorem Singh), and Sahal (Abdul Samad)… I'm taking these names because they've done really well in goals and assists. We don't play with two strikers under Igor's (Stimac) system. But these three boys have done really well in creating chances, assisting and scoring a few important goals."

On team advice and personal contribution:

Sunil Chhetri: "Well, I say try to stay calm. Understand the importance of the game. Keep the negative emotions under check and just do the basic right and work hard. As far as my job is concerned, I try to keep it simple. I go and I give whatever I have. More so now because I'm 39 and I still do the same thing that a youngster does. Even after being a father and my wife's sacrifice for so many years, I still leave them to come over here. So the least that I can do when I'm here is to give whatever I have."

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