Sunil Chhetri wishes U-19 cricketers luck ahead of World Cup final

Updated: Feb 03, 2018, 10:57 IST | IANS | Kolkata

Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri on Friday said the India U-19 boys deserve to be tagged favourites ahead of their final against Australia, and he hopes they come back with the Cup

Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri

Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri on Friday said the India U-19 boys deserve to be tagged favourites ahead of their final against Australia, and he hopes they come back with the Cup. "I watched them play against Pakistan. They are really good and deserve to be favourites going into the final. I wish them all the best and hope they come back with the World Cup," Chhetri told reporters ahead of Bengaluru FC's clash against ATK in an Indian Super League (ISL) game.

India have been convincing in every game leading up to the final and in their first outing thrashed the Aussies by 100 runs. Besides beating Australia in their tournament opener, the Rahul Dravid-coached India colts thumped minnows Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe by 10 wickets, before outclassing neighbours Bangladesh in the quarter-final by 131 runs. Meanwhile, back in the city for the first time as son-in-law after marrying former Mohun Bagan defender Subrata Bhattacharya's daughter Sonam, Chhetri said he has a special place for Kolkata in his heart and it's always good to come back.

"Kolkata has always had a special place in my heart. It's always great to come back. Not only because now I am the son-in-law here now, I have played for a long time in Kolkata," Chhetri tied the knot with long-time girlfriend Sonam in Kolkata in December last year. India's highest goalscorer started his career with city giants Mohun Bagan in 2002 before moving to JCT football club, only to come back and put to paper for East Bengal where he spent one season. Chhetri later plied his trade for Chirag United in 2011 before re-joining Mohun Bagan on a one-year deal. Coming to Bengaluru, where the journeyman striker has spent the longest time in his illustrious career, Chhetri said the Blues cannot take struggling ATK lightly as their place at the top half of the table is not secured.

"ATK are a good side and we cannot take them lightly. We cannot be complacent just because we are in top two. We have to put our best foot forward," the 33-year old said. ATK are currently placed eighth in the points table and will come into Saturday's game on the back of three reversals. Bengaluru, on the other hand, are top of the tree. Talking about his former allegiances Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, who are also finding it difficult in the I-League running simultaneously, Chhetri said, "I hope ATK, and also East Bengal and Mohun Bagan bounce back."

On Saturday's game, Bengaluru coach Albert Roca said they have lots to improve on and would like to take the ATK game as an opportunity to do that. "We haven't been able to win three games in a row this season which means we have so many aspects to improve upon. The game against ATK gives us the chance to change a pattern that we are not particularly proud of. Also, a defeat would have our rivals jumping at the chance to go ahead of us," said Roca.

Having failed to repeat the consistency of the past seasons, ATK are currently 10 points adrift of the top four places with just six games left. But their interim coach, Ashley Westwood believes his side still has a "mathematical chance" of making it to playoffs. "It is still a mathematical possibility. If we win 6 out of 6, I'm sure we'll be close. So there is definitely motivation in the team," Westwood told reporters at the pre-match press conference.

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