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Top five matches Sunil Chhetri single-handedly won for Indian football team

Published at :May 17, 2024 at 6:48 PM
Modified at :May 17, 2024 at 6:48 PM
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Dipro Mukherjee

Some of the biggest moments for Chhetri in national colours

After wearing the Blue Tigers’ uniform since 2005, Indian football team captain and legendary Asian footballer Sunil Chhetri has announced his retirement from the national team. As the fourth-highest goal scorer in international football history with 94 goals (to date), the Indian #11, who is considered to be among the best in Asian football, has decided to hang up his boots and pass on the torch. The FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait will be the last for the Indian captain.

Following a phenomenal 19-year international career, Chhetri has made his decision. Chhetri became the face of Indian football after making his senior team debut against Pakistan in 2005. He earned 150 caps and scored an incredible 94 goals for the national side. The 39-year-old striker revealed the news on social media with a moving and heart-warming 10-minute video.

Here, we delve into a list of top 5 matches where Sunil Chhetri single-handedly carried the national team on his strong shoulders.

India 4-1 Tajikistan

In 2008, India were up against Tajikistan, a team that had defeated North Korea in the AFC Challenge Cup final. The match was originally scheduled to be played at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad but was shifted to New Delhi with immediate effect after heavy rainfall had washed off the city of Nizam. In that game, the whole Indian team bamboozled Tajikistan as the Blue Tigers were 3-0 up within 23 minutes of the first half.

As Bob Houghton’s men shined, it was Sunil Chhetri who secured a hat-trick, driving India to a much-needed victory and helping India secure a spot in the AFC Asian Cup 2011.

India 1-0 Kyrgyzstan

The Blue Tigers locked horns with Kyrgyzstan at Bengaluru’s Kanteerava stadium in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier tie in 2017. During an interview in 2018, Sunil Chhetri also mentioned the significance of this game. India’s only goal came off Sunil Chhetri’s boots from a brilliant lob pass by Jeje Lalpekhlua. This win earned India a spot amongst the top 100 nations on the FIFA rankings table and it also confirmed India’s qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2019. Sunil Chhetri also praised his team for maintaining the 4-4-1-1 formation throughout the game and Jeje for his precise yet cheeky assist.

India 4-1 Thailand

This was an unforgettable triumph for India in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign opener. Anirudh Thapa, Jeje Lalpekhlua, and Indian captain Sunil Chhetri all found themselves on the scoresheet as the team introduced itself to the Asian elites. India’s captain scored twice in the match; the first goal came from a penalty that Thailand kindly gave away, and the second from a fast counter that Udanta Singh set up.

Throughout the game, Chhetri tormented the opposition’s backline, and Anirudh and Jeje joined the party. His influence gave others a confidence boost and a reminder of the four years of arduous labour they had to put in under Stephen Constantine in order to reach this point.

India 2-0 Lebanon

Credits: Indian Football

In the 2023 Hero Continental Cup final, India faced Lebanon. Sunil Chhetri’s team demonstrated a sophisticated possession strategy to get him the ball. During a move, the ball was found on the right side by Indian speedster Lallianzuala Chhangte, who then quickly completed a one-two with Nikhil Poojary to get past the defence and square it up for his captain.

India won the championship and Sunil Chhetri subsequently recalled practising the exact same goal on the training grounds during one of his accounts with the AIFF. The training ground replica was the driving force for India’s Continental Cup win.

India 1-0 Vanuatu

Credits: Indian Football

India faced Vanuatu, who are now placed #172 in the FIFA rankings, in the same competition. The lone goal between Vanuatu and India was the result of an incredible volley by Sunil Chhetri. The winning goal in the 2023 Hero Intercontinental Cup versus Vanuatu was a well-executed volley from his weaker foot. Chhetri revealed his pregnancy to the public as part of the goal celebration. An adorable gesture fit for the most adorable volley was showcased by the Indian skipper.

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