Chhetri scored a brace against Bangladesh to earn India's first win in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup preliminary qualification campaign.
Indian men’s football team captain Sunil Chhetri overtakes Lionel Messi in the highest active international goal-scorers list with a brace against Bangladesh in the joint preliminary qualifying round match for FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 on Monday. It was India’s first win of the campaign. The country’s talisman is now second in the list, with 74 goals, behind Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who has netted 103 times.
India went into the game desperately in need of a victory and Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute. Substitute Ashique Kuruniyan’s perfect cross from the left wing was headed in by Chhetri. The Bengaluru FC captain then extended the lead in the injury time. Suresh Singh’s cut back from the right side was calmly slotted in by the 36-year-old. It was his 74th goal for the national team.
UAE’s Ali Mabkhout is third in the list with 73 goals followed by Argentina’s global superstar Lionel Messi, who scored his 72nd goal from the penalty spot against Chile on Friday and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski(66).
Chhetri is just a goal away from entering the list of world football’s all-time top 10 goal-scorer’s list. He is just one strike away from Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis, Japan’s Kunishige Kamamoto and Kuwait’s Bashar Abdullah, who all have 75 goals.
AIFF president Praful Patel lauded the captain and the Indian team.
“Our @IndianFootball skipper Sunil Chhetri adds another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer with 74 goals.
“A big congratulations to Captain Fantastic & wishing him many more accolades in the future,” Patel tweeted.
“Congratulations #BlueTigers on an awesome win over Bangladesh today & fabulous performance by skipper @chetrisunil11 who lead from the front & paved the path to victory.
“Your hard work & determination was visible on the field. Wishing you all the very best in the upcoming game!”
It was India’s first away win in the World Cup qualifiers for 20 years since Jo Paul Ancheri’s goal gave India a 0-1 win against Brunei in 2001. The win takes the Blue Tigers to third spot in Group E with 6 points from seven games.
Although India are out of contention for a spot in the 2022 Qatar World Cup, they are still in reckoning for the Asian Cup 2023 qualification. Indian will take on Afghanistan, who are placed fourth with 5 points, in their final group match on June 15 and will be aiming for nothing less than three points from that fixture.