New Delhi: Soccer rules!
Striker Sunil Chhetri said a mid-match dressing down from coach Stephen Constantine got the best out of the Indian football team in its AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifier against Kyrgyzstan.
Chhetri, who scored the solitary goal in India’s win, said this was by far the team’s best performance in more than a decade.
India’s all-time highest scorer, Chhetri stamped his class yet again as he scored the match-winner to fire India to a 1-0 win in an entertaining match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru last night.
“I’m part of the national team for more than 10 years.
Trust me, I don’t remember when did we play such a fantastic brand of football last time,” he said.
The Chhetri-led side lacked panache in the first 45 minutes, but a “bashing” from Constantine set things in order after the break.
“We got a heavy bashing from the gaffer in the dressing room. Clearly, the situation wasn’t an ideal one. That’s why, when we came out for the next 45 minutes, it was a changed side, more focused and more promising.”
Although his goal made the difference, he refused to take all the credit for netting the winners against Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic.
“Last day it was Udanta, tonight it was Jeje – had they not made the scintillating run to feed me with the passes, those goals would haven’t seen the daylight. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.
“My goal might be the cherry at the top but the credit goes to all. Right from Gurpreet, the tenacious defenders, midfielders – everyone fought to their limit to churn this result,” he said.
Chhetri said there is nothing bigger than putting on the national team shirt.
“We don’t need any extra motivation. We always come out of the dressing room with same hunger. We have to keep improving ourselves to churn out positive results.”
He went on to rate yesterday’s goal as a crucial one and won’t mind putting it “right up there”.
He said, “Accumulating the importance of the goal, the timing and where it has come for the team – it’ll surely be stacked up right up there. I know I have said it more often but trust me, this goal has gotten us these three points. It’s really huge for us.”
Constantine said India deserved to win the game.
“More than anyone else, India deserved this. Not only the boys who played out there, everyone in the back office, the fans, and the staff played their part to get this result. I believe, the entire nation deserved this,” the coach said.
Asked about the team’s eight-match winning run, he quipped, “How about 9? I’m not a person who looks into the numbers too much. But 13 wins in 15 matches is really remarkable.
Be it at amateur level or intentional, producing this sort of result day in and day out is truly applaudable.”
The Briton further added, “We have one foot in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 now. We have to fight and get the results in the upcoming fixtures to get the job done.