We look good: Sunil Chhetri confident ahead of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
Sunil Chhetri feels optimistic ahead of his side's game against Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Sunil Chhetri, is a name etched in the history books of Indian Football. The 39-year-old has had an incredible career with stellar performances and new records every time. His performances have made him the third-highest active goalscorer in international football behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
He will look to continue his positive performances in the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifying campaign.
The 39-year-old has a total of nine goals to his name in World Cup qualifiers which is the highest goal tally by an Indian footballer to date.
The Indian National Football Team face Kuwait in their first game of the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They have been in good form so far with an Intercontinental Cup and SAFF Cup victory earlier this year. They faced their upcoming opponent Kuwait in the final of the SAFF Cup which they won on penalties.
The Blue Tigers are training for the match against Kuwait with Sunil Chhetri set for his 20th FIFA World Cup Qualifier game.
Chhetri was in a positive mood ahead of the game. He felt optimistic about India's chances of advancing to the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers this time around.
“I think we are at the right stage. This team probably are 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,” Chhetri told AIFF.com.
Chhetri feels that the morale of the team has gone up in the last few months because of the way the players have understood each other so far.
“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," he said.
"Also, the World Cup qualifiers are happening at a time when a lot of us have a decent amount of game time under our belts. all these things do matter. Over and above, we played Kuwait twice a few months back, so we have better knowledge of them, though it works on both sides. We have played Qatar at least thrice in the last three years, which again helps. And we always know Afghanistan. We have played them enough,” Chhetri added.
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The Indian skipper believes that the team game is ahead of any individual heroics. He feels that team effort is what is required to turn the target of qualifying for the next round into a reality.
“When you say realistic, whenever we have done well, in the last four years, we have done it as a team. We all had a good game. We are always a team more than individuals. So, that's why every one of us has to be switched on," he said.
"When we play on the 16th against Kuwait, it will be a little different from the one we played last time at home. Now the local fans are probably going to be hostile against us. Kuwait will be different because all teams are different when they play at home,” he added.
Chhetri did not want to talk about injuries to important players as he feels that the onus is on the players who have come as replacements to give a good account of themselves for the team.
“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. I've made peace with it that they're not going to be here," he said.
"It will take a lot of focus away from the boys who are going to replace them. We always say that we are a team rather than a bunch of individuals. Whoever is here will have to play and make sure that we give a good account of ourselves,” Chhetri added.
The 39-year-old feels positive about the Indian forward line and their ability to put the ball in the back of the net. He named certain key players like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad and Brandon Fernandes and praised the quality that they bring to the team.
“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," Chhetri said.
"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. So, it is more of me being the lone man ahead and these three coming and helping as many as possible and also going back and defending well. We also have Brandon (Fernandes) with a lot of experience. I think the three boys in the last 8-10 games have done really well,” Chhetri added.
The captain feels that age is not a factor in football. He believes that a player's contribution to the team matters more on a football pitch.
“Well, the age difference is evident, not only when I come for the national team, but also at the club," he said.
"I keep that aside. I don't judge myself or anyone else by their age. I don't judge any player when it comes to football by his age, whether it's younger or older. Important is what you are doing for the team, how good are you for the team, and how much can you sacrifice. That’s all,” Chhetri concluded.