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India need to play top-10 teams in Asia before Asian Cup: Chhetri

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Delhi: 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. "I definitely feel so (play against top-10 ranked teams in Asia). It will be difficult to play against the top five as they are playing in the World Cup. But we need to play against teams better than us and that also away matches," Chhetri told PTI in an interaction.

"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.

"UAE, Thailand and Bahrain (which are in India's group) are miles better than us and we have to put our heads down and keep working hard," said Chhetri, who played his 100th international match during the four-nation tournament in Mumbai.

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.

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