Hero Intercontinental Cup best moments: From Chhetri's milestone to gutsy show against Syria
There have been plenty of memorable moments for the Blue Tigers across two editions of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, particularly in the 2018 edition.
It’s been four years since the last edition of the Hero Intercontinental Cup took place in 2019. The inaugural edition of the competition first took place in 2018, which was won by hosts India. It was DPR Korea who emerged victorious in the following edition after a solid 1-0 win over Tajikistan in the final.
During these two editions, the Indian football team also witnessed a change in head coaches. Stephen Constantine was at the helm during the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2018, which was staged in Mumbai. A year later, it was newly-appointed Igor Stimac, who was in charge of the Blue Tigers during the 2019 edition which took place in Ahmedabad. However, there have been plenty of memorable moments for the Blue Tigers across these two editions, particularly in 2018.
We have handpicked some of the best moments for the Blue Tigers.
A dominant show against Chinese Taipei
India put Chinese Taipei to the sword with a comprehensive 5-0 victory in the opening match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2018. Playing on home soil against the lowest-ranked side in their group, India put up an all-round show against their opponents and hardly put a foot wrong in that game.
Chhetri was the biggest thorn in the opposition flesh as the Indian team talisman completed his hat-trick within the 62nd minute with Udanta Singh and Pronay Halder also getting their name on the scoresheet. The Blue Tigers also recorded a clean sheet with the Indian defence hardly being tested that evening.
2018 title triumph
India were touted as favourites to win the competition after being drawn alongside Chinese Taipei, New Zealand and Kenya. Being the highest ranked team in their group, the Blue Tigers went all the way despite a minor blip in the competition.
They opened their campaign with a thumping 5-0 victory over Chinese Taipei, followed by a convincing 3-0 win over Kenya. Sunil Chhetri & Co were then stunned by a young New Zealand side with a 2-1 defeat in their final group game, but still qualified for the summit clash.
Biostered by the presence of their fans in a jam-packed stadium at the Mumbai Football Arena, India overpowered Kenya with a 2-0 scoreline to be crowned winners.
Chhetri scores in his 100th match
The final of the 2018 edition against Kenya coincided with Chhetri’s 100 match in national team colours. After a poor crowd turnout during the group stage matches, Chhetri took to social media and made an appeal to fans in the city to support the team for the final. His tweet went viral in no time and fans flocked to the stadium in large numbers.
The Indian team captain made sure that the supporters were not left disappointed by netting a brace in the final, propelling the Blue Tigers to a win the title in style. Chhetri ended the tournament with nine goals across four games, finding the back of the net in all of India's games.
Point against higher-ranked Syria
Out of reckoning for a place in the final, India took on Syria in their last group stage match with pride at stake. The Blue Tigers suffered heavy defeats to Tajikistan and DPR Korea respectively, which had ruled them out of the final. Syria, the highest-ranked team (85) in the 2019 edition, on the other hand, needed to beat India to keep their hopes alive of reaching the final.
The game proved to be a cagey affair with chances few and far between. India broke the deadlock in the second half through 18-year-old Narender Gahlot, who scored his first goal for the senior team. However, the young defender’s goal was cancelled out by Firas Al-Khatib after India conceded a penalty at the death.
With that result, the home team not only quashed Syria’s hopes of reaching the final, but also secured a hard-fought point against the toughest side in their group, putting on a much-improved performance than what they had done in the opening two games.