AFC Asian Cup 2019: "Feel honoured to have surpassed Lionel Messi," says India's Sunil Chhetri
Indian national football team's prolific forward Sunil Chhetri struck a brace against Thailand in their 4-1 win at the Asian Cup 2019.
In the process, he surpassed Argentina and Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi in the list of the active goalscorers in international football. Chhetri now only trails Cristiano Ronaldo, who has found the back of the net 85 times in FIFA internationals.
Chhetri's brace took his tally to 67, while Messi, who is not expected to play an international for a couple of months at least, is short by two goals on 65.
When asked how he felt after overtaking his idol, Chhetri told the AFC:
"There's no comparison whatsoever between me and Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. I don't take it seriously, man."
"But I'm very very honoured. I don’t take it for granted the kind of goals that I score for my country. Every time I get an opportunity, I’ll do my best to score for my country.”
The victory over Thailand also sees India sit on top of Group A with three points. UAE and Bahrain have a point, courtesy their 1-1 draw in the opening match of the Asian Cup.
Chhetri says toppling Thailand was no easy feat. "Really happy because it's not easy to play Thailand. With the technique and quality they have, they were pressing really high. All through the 90 minutes, you can't let them have the ball for even five minutes. They will punish you (if you give away the ball). In the first half, in the first 25 minutes, I thought we were playing (against) Barcelona.
"They were so good. We made sure we are brave and press them high (as well). (We) made sure they are not allowed to pass around (freely). That really worked.
"What helped is that we got our goals at the right intervals. We pressed and worked hard. It was not easy against this Thailand team. I am proud of the boys."
Up next for India is a game against the hosts UAE in Abu Dhabi on January 10 at 9.30 pm IST.