All eyes on Chhetri as India takes on Afghanistan in Asian Cup qualifiers

Sunil Chhetri will look to add to his tally to enter the all-time top 10 scorers' list when India meets Afghanistan in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.

The goal machine: India captain Sunil Chhetri in action against Bangladesh. - TWITTER (@IndianFootball)

Sunil Chhetri will look to add to his tally to enter the all-time top 10 scorers' list when India meets Afghanistan in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.

The Indian team needs just a draw from this final game to secure a place in the third round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, after Oman defeated Afghanistan 2-1 on Friday. A hat-trick for Chhetri, the team's captain, will see him equal the iconic Pele in terms of the numbers of goals scored in international football.

Chhetri is also just one goal off entering the all-time top-10 list of goal-scorers.

India ended its winless run when Chhetri struck a brace against Bangladesh in its previous outing. The talk since then mostly centered around the Indian talisman surpassing the legendary Lionel Messi as football's second-highest scorer (in internationals) among active players.

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If the Blue Tigers can avoid defeat in the upcoming match, they will finish third in their group, an improvement over the fifth-place result during the last campaign.

India is already out of contention from progressing further in the World Cup qualifying campaign, and is now looking to secure a berth in the 2023 Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in China. India will enter the game as clear favourite despite Afghanistan's ability to fight it out.

Igor Stimac's men will be high on confidence after thoroughly dominating Bangladesh, against which they enjoyed nearly 75 percent possession besides completing more than 600 passes.

 

If they are to be that impressive, the Indians will need the duo of Chhetri and Manvir Singh to fire upfront, with Brandon Fernandes marshalling the midfield and keeping the supply chain flowing.

With Stimac reposing immense faith in him, Brandon has established himself as one of the country's top players playmakers. He has provided three assists out of five goals India has scored in the qualifying campaign so far, and he would be more than eager to continue in the same vein.

Form and record both favour India and anything less than a victory for the Blue Tigers will be seen as an upset.

As far as Afghanistan are concerned, it will take heart from its spirited performance in its previous outing against India, in 2019, when it held its opponent to a goalless draw.

The recent defeat against Oman means Afghanistan is not among the top fourth-placed teams in the World Cup qualifiers and a failure to win against India would send it to the playoffs just to get into the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers.

Match starts at 7:30PM IST.

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