The captain of the Indian national football team hadn’t even left the field after scoring both goals against Bangladesh on Monday before he was compared to Lionel Messi once again. This time around, it came from the FIFA World Cup’s official Twitter account. The tweet referred to Chhetri surpassing the legend from Argentina with the most international goals on the list of active footballers.

So, when the highest goal-scorer for India sat down with BettingPro on Wednesday, the comparison with Lionel Messi was the first topic of discussion. Chhetri stated that there is no comparison with Lionel Messi or any other player in the category for that matter. He said that there is thousands of players that are better than him and everyone is aware of this fact that knows football.

The comparison, which ignores a broad range of intangibles, also undervalues the 74 goals that Chhetri scored for the national team. For the better part of the last decade, the Indian national football team has repeatedly turned to Sunil Chhetri every time the Blue Tigers have been in trouble. The 36-year old forward, almost unfailingly, has provided. Whether it was the first goal he scored at the age of 20 or when he is scoring goals through assists with the likes of Suresh Wangjam.

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India’s Qualifying Campaign

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, India’s goalkeeper, recently informed BettingPro that he has lost count on the number of time he walked through the tunnel with a deep sense of security that Sunil Chhetri will deliver when the team needed it most. He continues to turn up and deliver time and time again. He did the same on Monday, scoring goals in the 79th and 92nd minute against Bangladesh.

Even though it was Bangladesh, who is ranked in 184th position and 79 positions below India in the FIFA rankings, the two goals might not appear to be a huge significance. However, the position in which the Blue Tigers find themselves, it’s safe to say that the goals scored by Chhetri does not diminish. Their recent performance have allowed India to get back on track with the qualifying campaign, especially when you look at the Asian Cup.

A spot in the World Cup was never on the cards for India. However, a 2023 Asian Cup spot is a more realistic target for the team that is currently ranked 105 in the world. On face value, the Blue Tigers have shown incredible improvement when you look at previous Asian Cup and World Cup qualifying tournaments. With only one match remaining against Afghanistan next week, the team has 4 more points this time around when compared to the cycle in 2018.

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India Needs to Be Brave with the Ball

The current campaign has seen India swinging from one extreme to another, stealing a point against Qatar in an away game, while dropping points at home against Bangladesh. Chhetri has stated that the team is blowing hot and cold and regretted the fact that his team couldn’t seize the opportunities when they were presented. This is especially true during their opening match against Oman where they lost 2-1.

However, Chhetri isn’t using the end results as the only parameter to judge the team’s progress. Apart from losing or winning, he is excited to see how the team performs once all the players have more experience. He also wants his team to be brave with the ball. Their games against Qatar and Oman, along with the results against Thailand and China, have proved that the Blue Tigers can defend. The next step is to have more courage and to keep the ball once they have possession.

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