Qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup is the least we have to do: Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri is adamant regarding India’s qualification for the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian’s Cup, in China. Down with an injury, the talisman skipped the flight to Bahrain, where the Blue Tigers played a couple of international matches against the hosts and Belarus.

Following a relatively disappointing season with Bengaluru FC in the Hero ISL 2021-22, Chhetri is currently making use of the off-season to heal his niggles. Even though the prolific goal scorer is not is not rushing things, he is expecting to don the national colours for the all-important third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in June, later this year.

“It is the qualifiers for a tournament which is very very important to us. We’ve done decently well in the last (2019) one. And the least we have to do as a nation is to qualify (for the main event). We need everyone, whoever is going to be at the camp, at our best and putting the best foot forward,” said Sunil Chhetri, during an interview with Injury Time India.

Igor Stimac’s men have been drawn in Group D alongside the likes of Cambodia, Hong Kong and Afghanistan, with the toppers to be handed an automatic qualification to the continental event. At the first glance, India is undoubtedly the most likely to make it through, especially with all the matches to be played at home.

“It’s very very important (AFC Asian Cup). It’s beyond me, it’s about the whole team. We saw what exactly it did to our confidence, the way we played and the way we think about ourselves. When you go and play in the AFC Asian Cup, it’s the biggest tournament for Asian teams, (it helps) to gauge ourselves against the best in Asia,” added India’s all-time highest international goal scorer.

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“We have a tricky group, but the good part is that we are playing at home. So, it means just a little bit more added advantage/responsibility/pressure. So, we want to be as prepared as possible.”

India will begin their qualifying campaign against Cambodia on June 8, while they are slated to take on Afghanistan three days later. The Blue Tigers will play their last match of the group stage against Hong Kong, on June 14. All the Group D matches will be played at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata.

The Indian team is eyeing its fifth ever appearance in the showpiece event. The last time the nation participated in the competition was in 2019, in UAE, where they were eliminated in the group stages itself.

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