India should play against top-10 ranked teams before Asian Cup: Chhetri

Vastavam web: Talismanic national football team captain Sunil Chhetri feels India should play against top-10 ranked sides of the continent in the next few months if the country desires to do well in next year’s Asian Cup.Chhetri said it would be difficult to play against the top-five countries — Australia, Iran, Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia — which are playing in the World Cup starting tomorrow in Russia but they can for other teams which are above India.”At home we are doing better but in away matches, if I may say so, our record is poor,” said Chhetri, who is a brand ambassador of online fantasy sports platform StarPick which today announced the launch of the football World Cup 2018 platform offering prizes worth Rs 20 crores.

Chhetri, who turns 34 in August, said the team should not get carried away with the triumph in the Intercontinental Cup and it should continue to work hard to perform well in Asian Cup. “We don’t get to play against New Zealand and Kenya everyday but the teams we are going to play in Asian Cup (in January 2019) like Thailand and Bahrain are two to three levels higher than us. We should be happy with what we have done but not get carried away. We have to improve a lot,” he said.Chhetri struck eight out of the 11 goals India scored in the Intercontinental Cup to become the joint second highest international goal scorer among active players along with Argentine great Lionel Messi.

During that tournament, just before his 100th match, Chhetri made an appeal to fans to throng the stadium and watch the Indian football team play, which was an unprecedented act for a national team captain.He said it was not a planned appeal but came out spontaneously after India played in front of an empty stadium in the first match against Chinese Taipei. The appeal via a Twitter video post got support from the likes of Virat Kohli and Sania Mirza.”Usually we enjoy jam-packed stadium in the ISL in Kerala, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Northeast and Chennai but on the first match (against Chinese Taipei) the stadium was empty and it was a bit disappointing and probably that was why I made the video.”

Asked if he has personal acquaintance with Kohli, he said, “Virat generally loves football. We talk on regular basis, not on twitter though. He likes football and probably that is why he came to my support. He is a part of FC Goa team and comes to watch ISL matches. “He is knowledgeable about football and that is why he wants to encourage fans to watch football matches and that is great. I did not ask him personally though.” Starpick.in was launched in March with the start of IPL XI and has successfully concluded this engagement with users winning prizes up to Rs 10 crores. The platform offers the widest game portfolio from across the world including cricket, kabaddi, European football, hockey, basketball, formula 1, golf, bicycle racing to name a few.