Even as it’s prediction time for pundits all over the world on the winners of the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri felt that “It won’t be easy for other teams to face India.”
India are placed in a relatively easy group alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in Group A. They play their first match against Thailand on January 6 and Chhetri feels it will be a tough task for the opposition from the word go.
"All of us are super excited and thrilled right now. Apart from me and Gurpreet, it's a first-time experience for all else. Everyone is ready to grab this opportunity,” he said.
“I can assure you that it won't be an easy job for other teams to face us. We are a team who hate to lose, and we have proven it in recent times. We are working as per the plan,’’ he added.
Chhetri, the highest Indian scorer in International Football with 65 goals at the moment, however, refrained from commenting as to which team will post the toughest challenge for India in the group stage.
“At the moment, our sole focus is on our opening fixture – the game against Thailand. At the moment, we are not looking anything beyond that. Yeah, there are matches against UAE and Bahrain lined up but we will think about them only when they come. At the moment we know that Thailand will be a very tough opponent and we are concentrating only on them.”
Chhetri has played 104 international matches so far, only three shy of his ‘mentor’ Bhaichung Bhutia, who had represented the nation a record 107 times. But he stressed that he never plays for records.
“It feels good when I get a record under my name. But I don't keep track of records. After 10 seconds, I just forget it and move on,” he said. “I never take any pressure of chasing any record. I never ever dreamed that I would play more than 100 games for India or score 60-odd goals,” Chhetri explained.
The 34-year-old striker didn't think much before calling himself as a 'big fan' of the Sikkimese Sniper, expressing he has learnt many a thing from his him.
"I have always been a big fan of Bhaichung-bhai. Tell me, who isn’t? I have learnt so many things from him,” he uttered. “He has always been a huge support.”