Chhetri happy after putting the disappointment of past few matches behind him in style
India captain Sunil Chhetri was a relieved man after helping his team to their first win in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup China qualifiers on Monday night. After the disappointment of a miss in the 63rd minute of the game at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Chhetri led from the front and scored a brace to help India move up to third in Group E, ahead of Afghanistan and behind Qatar and Oman, with six points from seven games.
First, he headed in an Ashique Kuruniyan ball in the 79th minute and then followed it up with another goal in injury time as he used his right foot to good effect to dispatch a cut-back from Suresh Wangjam.
Speaking to the AIFF right after the game, Chhetri, said: “It was tough, frustrating at times. I think we were guilty of missing a lot of chances. We could have done a lot of things better but at the end [we are] happy that we have got three points which was needed …To win three points, to win a full game is always sweet. I am happy that we also kept a clean sheet.”
With those two beautiful goals, Chhetri became the second-highest goalscorer among active male footballers in international football. With 74 goals, the 36-year-old overtook Argentina’s Lionel Messi (72 goals) and United Arab Emirates’ Ali Mabkhout (73 goals) on a memorable night for Igor Stimac’s men. He is now only behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 103 goals to his name. When asked if he keeps count of his international goals, Chhetri replied in the negative. “You know, I don’t. I am happy that we won,” he said.
It was India’s away first win in almost 20 years in the World Cup qualifiers. When this fact was brought to his attention, Chhetri said: “I didn’t know that. It feels good to win a game. It’s been a very topsy-turvy qualifying campaign. I think we have had some decent performances but couldn’t show any results. At the end, we are happy that we have got three points,” he concluded.
India next play Afghanistan on June 15 in their last match of the group at the same venue.