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If India beat Kuwait on June 6, Chhetri should play on

Updated on: 17 May,2024 06:31 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ashwin Ferro | ashwin.ferro@mid-day.com

However, his decision to call it quits bang in the middle of a crucial World Cup Qualifier campaign doesn’t appear to be aptly timed

If India beat Kuwait on June 6, Chhetri should play on

Sunil Chhetri. Pic/AFP

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India skipper and star forward Sunil Chhetri, 39, is known to get his positioning and timing spot-on, which is why he emerged as the most prolific striker for nearly a decade-and-a-half with 94 international goals to his name. 


That’s the third highest among active international players, and behind legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.


However, his decision to call it quits bang in the middle of a crucial World Cup Qualifier campaign doesn’t appear to be aptly timed. 


India placed second

Here’s why. In the second round of the Qualifiers currently, India (four points in as many games) are in second place in the four-team Group A, behind Qatar (nine points from three games). Afghanistan (four points from four games) are third due to an inferior goal difference as compared to India, while Kuwait are fourth (three points from three matches). In the second-round fixtures so far, India beat Kuwait 1-0 in an away clash before suffering a 0-3 home defeat to Qatar. They then played out a 0-0 draw with Afghanistan at the Damac Stadium in Saudi Arabia and followed it up with a well-fought 2-1 home victory over the same opponents where Chhetri did what he does best—scored a fine goal.  
 
India host Kuwait next on June 6 followed by a final away fixture against Qatar. Victory against either of these two teams could see the Blue Tigers progressing to the third round of football’s quadrennial showpiece event. 

Three groups in third round

Team India will need the invaluable services of their star striker in the third round where there will be three groups of six teams each with the top two from each group sealing a precious FIFA World Cup 2026 spot. 

Though India’s most experienced international player (150 caps) hasn’t given any indication of continuing to play if the national team does qualify for the third round, he should. 

Interestingly, those who know Chhetri well, swear by his commitment to the India jersey. And it’s most likely that the mercurial striker’s love for the country and 
Pele’s Beautiful Game could hold him from hanging up those precious boots just yet. At least, India’s die-hard football fans will desperately want that.

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