The India skipper spoke after a momentous evening for him and the team.
Earlier tonight, India stomped Hong Kong 4-0 in their final game of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. Speaking of the events, it was absolute mayhem at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, as goals came from all around the pitch. Anwar Ali opened the scoring early on followed by another right at half-time by captain Sunil Chhetri.
The scoreline was then further improved by two more goals from Manvir Singh and Ishan Pandita right before full-time. Overall, it was goals galore as India now seal their place at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Post game, the skipper spoke in an interaction with the media and here are the excerpts from the same:
Thoughts on result
First up, he shared his overall thoughts on the results in the qualifiers. Sunil Chhetri expressed, “Looking at the kind of form we are in, we’d love to play at home. The way the fans are coming up, it would be great to play here (for the Asian Cup). On a serious note, I’m very very satisfied. I generally don’t use this word, but I’m satisfied with the performance of the team.
“We had set a target to do well. especially when we got the qualifiers at home. Now, I’m really really happy that we got a clean nine pointer out of three games, which wasn’t easy. Both the last two games were difficult to open them up. So, a convincing three-game victory and nine points and it overall feels good.”
Perception of this victory considering his age
Next, he was asked about the sweetness of this victory and his perception of it considering his age and long tenure with the national team.
To this, he replied, “Yes, I think now I’m in the peak. It feels good. We really wanted to work hard. It doesn’t matter whether I or somebody else is there in the next tournament or not. India should be there and I’ve always said this. It is paramount for us as a nation to keep being there at the Asian Cup, so that we can compete with the best in Asia.
“We can know how much we lack and how much we’ve improved. It is not very often that we compete against the best in Asia and the Asian Cup gives you a chance. All in all, everything works well when you qualify for the tournaments and that was what our initial game was. Thankfully, we worked hard and now we are there,” Sunil Chhetri continued.
Presence of confidence on pitch
Further, Sunil Chhetri was questioned on the difference in attitude and confidence that’s starting to be seen with the side of late. That is, if he felt its presence in the last few games.
Answering this, he stated, “Yes, the kids are amazing. We’ve got the mixture really well now. We have the Gurpreets (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) and Sandeshs (Jhingan), the Rahuls (Rahul Bheke) and the Khabras (Harmanjot Khabra) to make sure, we have the balance of seniority and youngsters — who want to go express themselves.
“You’ve also got Liston (Colaco) and Suresh (Wangjam) along with Akash (Mishra) and Roshan (Singh) — who’ve been brilliant. So yes, a lot of youngsters coming up and also Ishan (Pandita) has been outstanding in training too and look what he did today.”
On equalizing Ferenc Puskas’ record
Lastly, he concluded the interaction by sharing a few words on equalizing Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas’ international goalscoring record.
He said, “I genuinely do not think too much about the records. I know considering the amount of matches I’ve played for the country, I don’t have that many left. I want to go out there and enjoy every game. I want to slide, I want to run and I want to do each and everything I can because I know it isn’t going to last a really long time. It’s absolutely the best to thing to happen to my life — playing for my country. It’s an absolute honour, every bit of it,” thereby ending his talk.