Skipper Sunil Chhetri led Indian side, coached by Stephen Constantine in his 2nd term, won the 4-nation Hero Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Sports Complex Arena, Andheri, infront of a jam-packed crowd support and millions of proud Indians who glued to the television sets witnessing the resurgence of Indian football !
Could it have been a better script than this? One doubts so. The home side won the much anticipated final versus Kenya by a comfortable 2-0 margin courtesy – yet another brace from none other than Captain Fantastic, India’s poster boy,Sunil Chhetri ! Remember the chant- Chhetri..Chhetri..!
Such has been the story of this whole tournament. The talisman Indian forward scored as many as 8 goals from the 4 games that his side played until being ultimate triumphants.
Well for stats’ sake he has scripted something nothing less than phenomenal- India’s Sunil Chhetri has equalled legendary Argentinian great, Lionel Messi’s record of scoring 64 goals for his nation and is now joint second in the list of Active International Goal Scorers. Portuguese legendary striker, Cristiano Ronaldo tops that chart with 81 goals!
Coming to the match, India has been always regarded as slow-starters in the recent past. They have also fallen prey to this trait and used to concede goals early and chase the game from behind, but such has not been the case in this tournament for Constantine & co. In all the matches India took the lead first up, even the loss to New Zealand saw India leading by 1-0 at one time. Only the first Kenya game saw a goal-less draw first half. India had come roaring back winning the game 3-0. And the final was no different. India was out of the blocks as soon as the whistle blew. And within the 6th minute Sunil drew a foul from a Kenyan defender just out of the box to the right and secured a set-piece for India.
The No.7, much promising youngster, Anirudh Thapa worked out a magic with Chhetri out of their training grounds, him pulling out of the gathering, Thapa laying up a grounder and Sunil determining the outcome with nicely garnished finishing. And the whole stadium erupted. As the Blue pilgrims roared with their massive Blue Tiger Tifo embracing Chhetri’s 63rd!
In the 28th minute Chhetri chested down a well assisted long ball from Anas Edathodika into the box and slotted a cool calm finish into the right corner of the goal post with his comparatively weaker left foot.
No.64th! 2-0 into the 30th minute and the game was more or less put to bed. Kenya fought valliantly in the second half with all that they had up their sleeve but was denied any sneaking in by a sturdy Indian defence of Narzary, Anas, Jhinghan & Udanta even who operated almost as a right back being a winger. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, India’s wall stood there tall, ensuring a convincing win for India eventually at the 94th minute final whistle.
Constantine’s boys have done it. But more is on the line. This is just the start. And we look forward to many more such triumphs as we build up to our Asian Dream.
THE INDIAN FOOTBALL RISE IS ON! COME ON! LETS FOOTBALL!