Chhetri confident India can shine

Dubai: Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri is confident his team will grab their chance to shine on one of the biggest football stages at the 2019 Asian Cup to be held in the UAE.

Chhetri was one of four luminaries gracing the conduct of the draws ceremony at the Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa late on Friday alongside Iranian legend Ali Daei, iconic Chinese player Sun Ji-hai and Philippines’ star Philip Younghusband.

“The Asian Cup is an enormous opportunity for us and we are looking forward to it. In India, everyone is excited and we have the blessings of all the people so that we can do our best,” Chhetri said.

“The AFC Asian Cup gives us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of Asia and play against players, many of whom play in Premier League, across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be an eye-opener and even if it is a learning experience, we aim to be competitive and give our best on the pitch,” the 33-year-old promised.

After finishing runners-up way back in 1964, India next qualified for the tournament in 1984. However, they made a third appearance in 2011 with Chhetri as the second choice striker after then captain Baichung Bhutia. Seven years down the line, India has risen to a best-ever No. 97 on the latest Fifa World Rankings.

“I was part of the team in 2011 in Doha, and qualifying to the Asian Cup for the second time in eight years is great for Indian Football. We will treat this tournament as a platform where India will get to test our credentials and gauge our progress,” the 33-year-old added.