Captain Sunil Chhetri scored his 63rd and 64th goal in national colours equalling Lionel Messi’s record
India’s all-around performance at the Mumbai Sports Arena acted as the fairytale ending to a tale that started on a plucky note. After India’s 5-0 win over Chinese Taipei, Chhetri pleaded with his countryman to come out and support the national team upon seeing multiple empty seats in the arena. And he was not disappointed, every fan in the 18,000 seater arena was on their feet when India lifted the Cup.
A 2-0 result was the perfect reflection of final’s proceedings. Indian team was in control all along. The Kenyans huffed and puffed, put in numerous crosses and ran all across the pitch but were unable to find a way past the resolute Indian defence.
Chhetri’s both goals came in the first-half. The opening strike, a neat flick from a free-kick in the 7th minute giving India an early lead. The second was down to Chhetri’s industry as he chased a long ball from Anas Edathodika, slid past defender and struck a vicious shot in the bottom right corner of the goal. With this 28th minute goal, the 33-year-old equalled Lionel Messi’s record of 64 international goals. He has now climbed up to second on the list of active international goalscorers behind only Cristiano Ronaldo.
Chhetri has been in sublime form throughout the tournament notching up 10 strikes including a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei and now a brace. The 4-time AIFF Player of the Year will now turn his attention to domestic football with the fifth season of the Hero ISL. He will be bidding to go one step further this time around with Bengaluru FC succumbing to Chennaiyan FC in the final last season.
Sunil Chhetri is undoubtedly the best Indian player of the current generation. While Indian football has never been at the forefront of fans’ conscious, he has still led the team admirably. His record acts as a testament to his talent and his efforts. He will be hoping to leave Indian football in better health than it was when he started out.