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Chhetri Tips England for Euro Cup

England came agonizingly close last time as they faltered in the penalty-shootouts of the finals of the 2020 Euros at Wembley….reports Asian Lite News

With club football now over in the top European leagues, fans have now turned their attention to the 2024 Euros to see which of the top 24 countries in Europe takes home the ultimate prize.

In an exclusive conversation with IANS, former Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri labelled England as favourites to win the trophy for the first time in the country’s history.

“For contenders, if I have to pick one, put my neck on the line and then get trolled afterwards. I would say England,” Chhetri told IANS.

England came agonizingly close last time as they faltered in the penalty-shootouts of the finals of the 2020 Euros at Wembley.

Many questions are being raised about manager Gareth Southgate’s chosen squad for the tournament, which has seen big names like Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, and James Maddison miss out on the list of players, who traveled to Germany for the tournament.

“James Maddison (exclusion from the England squad) is a little bit of a shocker for me, Grealish and Rashford didn’t play much domestically, so you can understand. And also you see the kind of talent he has at his disposal, you can’t go wrong. What we have seen is a lot of times he has played two number six’s. Even against teams that they should have gone more attacking. You saw two defensive midfielders playing. I hope he is more adventurous,” added the 39-year old.

Despite the exclusions, no one can question the amount of talent and potential the squad possesses with names like Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka forming a young core of the squad led by England’s all-time leading scorer, Harry Kane.

“I hope Jude will start. I really hope Foden plays number 10 because I’m a big Foden fan and I hope they are a little bit more attacking minded. And as far as the balance of the team is concerned, I think they are in a very sweet spot. In the last six to seven years, we have seen the upward trajectory of England. And now the youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, they are no more youngsters. They are world beaters,” concluded India’s all-time top scorer.

Chhetri is the expert panelist on Sony Sports Network’s studio show Football Extraaa for UEFA EURO 2024.

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‘It’s Not About Me’

Despite his age, Chhetri’s resolve remains unshaken, and he is firm in his decision to retire…reports Asian Lite News

Kolkata, June 5 (IANS) As India’s football icon Sunil Chhetri gears up for his final international match, he is determined to shift the spotlight from his retirement to the team’s crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Kuwait. A victory on Thursday will almost secure India’s place in the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, bringing them a step closer to the 2026 finals in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Chhetri, who announced in May that the second-leg match against Kuwait would mark the end of his illustrious 19-year international career, emphasised the importance of the team’s performance over his farewell.

“It’s not about me and my last match. I don’t want to address it again and again. We really want to win this game. This is not going to be easy, but we are ready. We will have tremendous support,” Chhetri said at the press conference.

At 39, Chhetri’s focus remains firmly on the team’s success. He shared his immediate post-retirement plans, highlighting his continued commitment to Indian football. “If we win tomorrow, we almost qualify. Five top games home and away, I am going to wear nice suits and watch the match wherever the team travels,” he revealed.

“Every day I talk to the boys, I keep telling them about this dream. The longer camp helps because we come from different mentalities. It gives you much more time to work on details.”

Despite his age, Chhetri’s resolve remains unshaken, and he is firm in his decision to retire. “Suits are made and I am going to watch the boys play. I have thought about it a lot. I had a great ride all these 19 years. I will go as a fan and support the team wherever the team goes,” he said.

The match against Kuwait is critical, especially following India’s surprising 1-2 loss to lower-ranked Afghanistan in a home-leg tie in Guwahati in March. This defeat was widely criticized by fans and pundits, adding pressure to the upcoming game.

The Indian team head coach Igor Stimac acknowledged the challenge but expressed confidence in the team’s preparation. “We need to take care of these players, they don’t have their best striker. We are also without Sandesh (Jhingan). They impressed me with their last performance against Qatar, they raised their game.

He continued, “But I’m in absolute peace with the way our preparation has gone. It’s only a game of football and we should enjoy it. The result is always in god’s hands.”

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Chhetri Opens Up Before Final Game

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine-minute-long video posted on social media on May 16…reports Asian Lite News

The entire footballing fraternity is counting the days till June 6 when an icon of the sport, Sunil Chettri will be donning the Blue Tigers jersey for the final time against Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium. 

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine-minute-long video posted on social media on May 16.

Sunil Chhetri took to Instagram to share his thoughts and mindset heading into his final game. “These last few days, I’ve been caught in a bit of a dilemma. Now that there’s a number to my days with the national team, what’s the right route to take – do I count every day, every training session? Or do I simply turn up without the thought of how this is coming to an end?” read the post by the Indian skipper.

“Over time, I seemed to have found middle ground. They say, count your blessings. And every single day I get to be on the pitch is a blessing that I’ve never taken for granted. So I’ve decided to count my sessions, but with a deep sense of gratitude. There’s no apprehension. Instead, there’s a feeling of being indebted to the sport, to my team, that I get to do this.

If I could, I would capture this feeling in a box. Or instead, I’ll take it to my next training session,” it further added.

India vs Kuwait will be the national team’s all time top scorers final game for the country and will be hoping to end his glorious international career on a high. It is a must win game for the country if they are to progress to the next round of the FIFA WC Qualifiers as they face a dominant force in Qatar in their final game of the stage on June 11.

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine minute long video posted on social media on May 16.

The Blue Tigers national team is currently in the training camp in Bhubaneswar getting ready for the two critical matches.

His impact on the game that has spanned for nearly two decades has seen his fandom spread across the country. The game against Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata will be an emotional encounter as India will bid farewell to its most loyal servant.

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Retiring As a Legend

The iconic number nine of Indian football made his debut in 2005 for the national team scoring 94 goals for the country….reports Asian Lite News

It is truly a sad day for Indian football as Sunil Chhetri, one of the greatest players in Indian football, has announced his decision to retire following FIFA World Cup 2026 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6.

As the news spread, some of the biggest names in India have shared their views on the 39-year old’s retirement call.

Bhaichung Bhutia, who Chhetri admired most and under whom Chhetri grew up, told IANS that “he has contributed so much to Indian football. Indian football is going to miss a legendary footballer like him.”

“He has contributed so much to Indian football. Indian football is going to miss a legendary footballer like him. There will be a huge gap to fill now. Overall I think he was too professional and is one of the greatest examples to the generations to come. His focused dedication is exemplary,” Bhaichung added.

Chhetri played his 150th match against Afghanistan in March earlier this year. The iconic number nine of Indian football made his debut in 2005 for the national team scoring 94 goals for the country.

The skipper is India’s all-time top scorer and the most capped player for the national side. He is also the third highest scorer for the National team among active players only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“There are few players without whom the sport is left poorer. Sunil Chhetri is one. We are lucky to have him play for India. it is not over yet. He still has to lead us against Kuwait and win it for us, to make the most fond farewell for Sunil and for Indian football. He is an icon, legend. For him Indian football has benefitted in many ways. Wish him the best,” said Kalyan Chaubey, president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

Chhetri’s one time teammate, one of the best goalkeepers the country has seen, Subrata Paul told IANS, “I respect Sunil’s decision to retire from international football. I understand it is a very tough call. We have been on the same side of the field numerous times, learning and pushing each other. He has been an inspiration and has set the standards exceptionally high. Good luck my friend for your life beyond the field. Looking forward to walking it together.”

Midfield general Mehtab Hussain, who played alongside Chhetri, in many matches recalled that he and Sunil used to play together for Mohun Bagan, the oldest club to still exist in India.

“We started together at the Mohun Bagan club. See, every player has to call it a day, sooner or later. He might have understood or felt that this is my last match. It varies from person to person. He played for a very long time and gave his services to the National and club teams. Hats off to him the way he has taken himself to such a height. I, as a friend, feel proud of him,” Mehtab said.

Tribute to Stellar Career

Following Sunil Chhetri’s official announcement in which the striker announced that he will be playing his last game for India against Kuwait on June 6, many boards, teams and players have come out pay tribute to the Indian captain’s stellar career.

The official handle for the FIFA World Cup has posted a tribute for Chhetri as well which included the iconic photo of him standing with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on a podium, which signifies the top three active international goal scorers.

The picture was coupled with a caption, “Retiring as a legend”.

“Sunil Chhetri, the world’s third-highest active international goalscorer, will play his final game for Indian Football in next month’s FIFA WorldCup qualifiers,” added the official account for the FIFA World Cup on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The 39-year old played his 150th game for his country against Afghanistan last month. He has scored 94 goals so far in his international career with fans hoping he finds the back of the net at least one more time in the blue tigers jersey during the game vs Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium.

FIFA World Cup’s official account also posted a video of Chhetri’s previous interview in which he talked about the comparisons made between him, Messi and Ronaldo.

“Some of the fans go overboard and think about comparing (with Messi & Ronaldo) but there are footballing fans who understand there is no comparison between the kind of players that we are but I will definitely compete with them with all my might in terms of giving the best for your country. There I probably would not lose,” Chhetri had said to FIFA +

A Legacy of Dedication and Inspiration

The loss of Sunil Chhetri is not one that can be described in words. Following the announcement of his impending retirement, the sports fraternity has come alive to pay their tributes to one of the best to ever grace the pitch.

Chhetri, who is known for his calm, composure and maturity both on and off the pitch, features that another former Indian captain is well known for. Former India football captain IM Vijayan has compared the 39-year-old with ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni.

“I consider Chhetri a great player, a terrific motivator, and an ideal captain. He is like MS Dhoni, who has excelled both as a player and a captain. The kind of discipline Chhetri maintained throughout his career has made him a role model.

“I tell youngsters like Sahal Abdul Samad and Ashique Kuruniyan to follow Chhetri’s lifestyle if they wish to prolong their careers. It will take some time before we get another footballer like Sunil Chhetri in India,” Vijayan was quoted as saying by AIFF.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, too, lavished praise on Chhetri, stating, “@chetrisunil11, one of India’s most decorated footballers, has announced his retirement from international football. Your dedication and passion have been an inspiration to millions. As a pioneer of Indian football, you’ve not only achieved remarkable success but also elevated the sport in our country. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!”

Chhetri will don the Blue Tigers jersey one final time as he walks out on the pitch at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata against Kuwait in a must win FIFA WC Joint Qualifier on June 6. The match is of great significance as the venue is the most iconic football ground in the country and holds a lot of history having seen the best of Indian footballing moments.

Meanwhile, AIFF acting general secretary M Satyanarayan, said, “It would be an understatement to say that Sunil Chhetri’s retirement will be a big loss for Indian Football. We have seen the dedication with which he has played for both club and country.

“Even at the age of 39, he is one of the fittest players on the pitch. Right now, the only thing that we can do is look back on his glorious career and celebrate it. We certainly hope that he will do the job for the nation one last time on June 6, but whatever the result may be, he will certainly go down as one of the legends of Indian Football. I would like to sincerely thank him for his massive contribution to Indian Football,” he added.

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