The India international Sunil Chhetri, who is currently leading the Bengaluru based I league club Bengaluru FC has recently admitted the importance of playing the Asia Cup in order to develop the Indian Football.
As according to the Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri, India’s hopes of developing as a football-playing nation are reliant on regular participation in tournaments like the Asian Cup, said captain.
And the star forward Sunil Chhetri, who has scored most goals for India ever will be hoping to lead India to the 2019 Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates after the India missed out on the last edition of the tournament in Australia two years ago.
In the last round of Asian Cup qualifiers, India has been drawn alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau in Group A of, with the top two teams advancing to the expanded tournament.
And recently the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has taken a decision to increase the number of finalists from 16 to 24, which has given India a better chance of qualifying and Chhetri believes it is an opportunity India should not pass up.
As in an interview, the 32-year-old India international Chhetri said, “To be honest, we should be playing at the Asian Cup every time. That’s the parameter we need to use to judge if we are doing well or not,”
“We have to keep playing in the Asian Cup which will mean rubbing shoulders with the best in the region. You know the quality you are playing against and then you know how much you have improved.”
After a great year of 2016, the India national football team is currently 130th in the FIFA rankings and while we take a quick glance at India’s group opponents in the last round of Asian Cup qualifiers, it shows that Kyrgyzstan are ranked six places above them, Myanmar are 159th and Macau are a further 25 places adrift, but yet the India international and most-capped player with 92 appearances, Sunil Chhetri is refusing to read too much into those numbers.
As Chhetri added, “As far as our hopes are concerned, I have played enough to understand that you cannot think about the chances yet,”
“The way the rankings work is if you do well in the last six-to-eight months, your ranking can rise to an extent that you can’t even imagine,”
“That’s why when I face teams in Asia, I don’t look too much into rankings. (Qualification) is not going to be easy.”