AFC Asian Cup 2019: Where would India stand without Sunil Chhetri in the qualifiers?
The Asian football fraternity witnessed the fixtures and groups for the AFC Asian Cup being drawn last week in Dubai. The striking event at the Burj Khalifa was sanctified with the presence of the Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri, as the 33-year-old witnessed the fortune of the top Asian countries for the 2019 AFC Cup, in person.
While the opening fixture of the AFC Asian Cup will kick off on January 5, 2019, in which Bahrain will be taking on hosts, UAE, India will commence their Asian Cup campaign against Thailand on the 6th of January, 2019. The Blue Tigers have been placed in Group A alongside the likes of UAE, Thailand and Bahrain.
On their journey to the further stages of the competition, captain Chhetri has played a highly significant role in India's success to the main draw of the AFC Asian Cup. Having scored the injury-time winner that clinched the game for the Blue Tigers against Myanmar in Yangon, he also netted the winner in the home leg against Kyrgyz Republic that took place in Bengaluru in June last year. He was also responsible for scoring one of the two crucial goals in the tie against Myanmar at home.
In the six games of the group stages of the contest, the all-time leading scorer of India registered his name on the scoresheet on four crucial occasions and guided his team to progress further in the competition.
If it weren’t for captain fantastic, India may not have made it this far and would have probably registered two wins in the tournament – home and away to Macau (4-1 and 2-0 respectively) – leading to India’s elimination from the AFC Asian Cup. The Indian team would have lost out to Kyrgyzstan as well as Myanmar.
Hence, the Blue Tigers would have acquired only two wins in six matches (both of them against lowest-ranked team Macau). This means that Indian would have finished seven points behind Myanmar and nine behind Kyrgyzstan.
While the Indian football head coach, Stephen Constantine believes that his team has the capacity to qualify to the knockout stages of the Asian competition, a large chunk of the responsibility and hopes of not just the coach, but also of the fans will be riding on the back of Sunil Chhetri.
As the anticipation for the much awaited Asian Cup is building up at a rapid pace amid the fans in the country, it will be nerve wrenching to watch the Blues pave their way to victory, and have a successful campaign in the 2019 edition of the Cup.
Not only has Sunil proved to have an impact on the pitch, but his leadership skills have quite evidently kept the tricolour soaring high every time he has donned India's Blue, regardless of whether he is on the grass or off it.