India captain Sunil Chhetri credits youngsters for SAFF Cup triumph

Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring for the India in the final against Nepal before Suresh Wangjam doubled the lead and Sahal Abdul Samad added the third to win their eighth SAFF title.

Sunil Chhetri scored five goals for India in the 2021 SAFF Championship; Credit: Twitter/@IndianFootball
By Sreejith C R | Oct 17, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri, who scored five goals in the 2021 SAFF Championship, credited the youngsters for the team’s title triumph. The 37-year-old striker opened the scoring for the Blue Tigers in the final against Nepal. Suresh Wangjam doubled the lead and Sahal Abdul Samad completed the drubbing with India’s third to win their eighth SAFF title. Chhetri has been India’s torch bearer for more than a decade now and his goal in the final was the 80th one for the national team.

“Look at the youngsters — it feels good for all of them. It’s all due to their hard work. We were here for 20 days till the final, staying on an island, riding the waves every day for practice sessions, and matches,” Chhetri said in a release from All India Football Federation.

“We made it special as we were not so good in the first two games. It was tough from there to come up and play the way we did,” added Chhetri after his third triumph in the SAFF Championship as a player.

Chhetri who had won the tournament back in 2011 and 2015 was referring to the lackluster draws against Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the opening two games. The underwhelming results had drawn criticism from all corners.

“Didn’t start like we should have, but ended exactly how we wanted to. Proud of this bunch and the way we got things on track,” he later said in a tweet.

Chhetri who had scored five of India’s eight goals in the tournament was full of praise for the other goal getters in the final- Suresh and Sahal.

Sahal’s goal was an individual brilliance

“I enjoyed watching that, Sahal. Suresh, of all the things you copy from me, this is up there. Make it a habit,” said the captain.

Meanwhile, it was Sahal’s first international goal and a special one indeed. The 24-year-old Kerala born midfielder who came on as a substitute showed great skill and ball control to get past three defenders before slotting the ball into the net.

Sahal, on his part, said it was an “unbelievable” moment and “a miracle”.

“I don’t know what happened inside the box. I came in for the last 4-5 minutes. My teammates have been working hard – it all goes to them,” he said.

“But I just don’t remember what happened inside the box. I got it and went in. This is an amazing feeling.”

Meanwhile, the likes of central midfielder Lalengmawia Ralte, centre-back Chinglensana Singh and forward Manvir Singh also had a very good tournament. Lalengmawia was excellent in the final round-robin match against the Maldives. The 20-year-old bossed the midfield against the hosts. He was also very good in the final.

24-year-old Chinglensana did a fine job in the absence of Sandesh Jinghan alongside Rahul Bheke. Some of his last-ditch tackles and reading of the game were very good.

Manvir Singh is proving to be a vital player for India. The ATK Mohun Bagan striker is a team man who is willing to do any kind of job for the team. The 25-year-old at times plays on the right side and is not hesitant to get back and do the defensive duty.

With the emergence of so many youngsters from the age category national team, Indian head coach Igor Stimac now has multiple options to choose from in different positions.

The Indian team will leave for Bengaluru on Sunday night and from there they will join their respective Indian Super League clubs.

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