India’s highest goal-scorer Sunil Chhetri said that the Blue Tigers do not need him to be successful. India will host Bangladesh in the Group E Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Kolkata on Tuesday. Also Read - This Football Queen is Winning Hearts of Netizens For Her Amazing Stunts | WATCH Viral Video
“The Indian team doesn’t need Sunil Chhetri to put up a good performance. I am just one of the 23 players in the team. I’m a little bit lucky and little bit more experienced. That’s about it,” Chhetri told reporters ahead of the match. Also Read - Pakistan Ready to Resolve All Outstanding Issues With India Through Dialogue, Says Imran Khan
Chhetri was unavailable for India’s historic goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar due to illness. Quizzed if the team, under Croatian Igor Stimac, missed him, he said: “It was because of my absence that they played so well in the Qatar game. That’s what the players keep reminding me (laughs).” Also Read - Ladakh Standoff: What India, China Discussed During 16-Hour Long Military-Level Talks | Read Here
The 35-year-old Chhetri, who has scored a record 71 goals in 111 appearances, revealed that Stimac has no prejudices when fielding players in the starting XI.
“The importance on who is going to play is so less and the importance on the team is so important under him,” Chhetri said.
“Whoever does well in training will play. Sometimes he defies what I think. He has come with no prejudice in this country. He doesn’t know what you have done in the past. That is the reason we have done so well against Qatar.
“It doesn’t matter who is going to play tomorrow. The team will play as best as we can and that is the beauty of the game we have right now.”
Meanwhile, sitting alongside Chhetri, Stimac, who was part of the Croatian team that finished third in the 1998 World Cup and helped them qualify for the 2014 World Cup, stated the talismanic marksman is more important than him.
“The numbers are there for everybody to see. No one can change that. I can tell you about Chhetri as a person, as a leader, as a human being. He’s more important than me for this team. But as he mentioned, this game is not about Stimac or Chhetri, not about individuals but all of us. We all are one family,” he expressed.
Since arriving in the city, Bangladesh players and coaching staff have stressed about Chhetri being their most important concern.
“Chettri is a big name in Asia. We have to mark him tightly. If we give space to big players they will punish you. But India have other good players who can win them but yes we must make sure Chhetri doesn’t get the ball,” Bangladesh’s English coach Jamie Day said.
“I’ll be very happy if they mark me. If that happens then people will come to know about other players. It is not about me. If they mark me then it will be good as other players will get a chance to get on the scoresheet. We have a very talented team,” Chhetri was quick to reply.
In their opening match, India lost to Oman 1-2 in Guwahati before holding Qatar in Doha. They are at fourth place in the five-team table with one point from two outings.
Bangladesh lost to Afghanistan and Qatar and are at the bottom of the group after two games.