Sunil Chhetri scores a brace to equal Messi's record, wins India the match

India player Sunil Chhetri greets the spectators after the team's victory against Kenya during the Hero Intercontinental football Cup. File Photo: PTI
Even Quentin Tarantino couldn't have written a better script. Sunil Chhetri, a national hero, pleaded his fellow countrymen to come and watch his team play in the stadium after a low attendance in India's 5-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the Intercontinental Cup. By the end of the tournament, Chhetri had played his 100th international match, won India the tournament, and equalled the record of Lionel Messi for the number of international goals. 

India swept aside Kenya at the Mumbai Sports Arena to lift the Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Sports Arena today and Chhetri, who scored twice, was the hero. Kenya huffed and puffed, put countless crosses and sprinted till they ran out of gas, only to be beaten by a spirited man and his team. 

The first goal came in the seventh minute, a flick from a free-kick. In the 28th minute, Chhetri tracked a long-ball by Anas Edathodika, slid past the Kenyan defenders, let the ball bounce once, and unleashed a strike into the right-bottom corner to match levels with Messi. After that, he ran to the spectators, who answered his call to come to stadium and support the team with full-house, and blew them a kiss as a gesture of thanks. In response, Mumbai roared. The Mumbai Football arena that seats 18,000 was reportedly full-house. 

Chhetri's latest feat has drawn him level with the Argentine and placed him next only to Ronaldo on the list of active players. Chhetri was fantastic throughout the tournament. In the four matches, he has scored eight goals, including a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei. While he scored two goals against Kenya in his 100th international match, one goal came against New Zealand in the last league game of Intercontinental Cup.
 

Sunil Chhetri performance in Intercontinental Cup

 

A Sunil Chhetri hat trick in India's 5-0 win over Chinese Taipei got the hosts underway. The captain took matters in his own hands to do something about the low attendance in the first game. A 2 minute 24 second plea to his fellow countrymen to come and watch his team play in the stadium did the trick as his 100th game in an Indian shirt against Kenya was a sell out despite torrential rain hitting Mumbai. A double in a 3-0 win rounded off a near-perfect evening for Chhetri and his boys. In the next game against New Zealand, several young players were handed their national team debuts. All didn't go according to plan as the All Whites ran out 2-1 winners, but Jeje Lalpekhlua got his 50th cap for India.

 

Sunil Chettri career and records

 

The 34-year-old striker plays for Indian club Bengaluru FC in the Indian Soccer League. He is both the most-capped player and all-time top goal scorer for Indian national team. Chhetri began his professional career at Mohun Bagan in 2002. He then moved to (Jagatjit Cotton & Textile Football Club) JCT where he scored 21 goals in 48 games. He was signed by the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer in 2010, becoming the third player from the subcontinent of note to go abroad.

Chhetri overtook USA international Clint Dempsey and drew level with David Villa after he scored hat-trick against Chinese Taipei, to climb to joint third on the list of the highest active international goalscorers in football before equalling Leo Messi's record today.
 

Top 5 active goal scorers in International football

Player Name Country Goals
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 81
Lionel Messi Argentina 64
Sunil Chhetri India 64
David Villa Spain 59
Clint Dempsey USA 57

Sunil Chhetri major achievements

He helped India win the 2007 Nehru Cup, 2009 Nehru Cup, the 2012 Nehru Cup as well as the 2011 SAFF Championship. He was also one of India's best players during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in which India won the tournament and thus qualified for their first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years. He then led India in scoring during their short-lived campaign at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with two goals. Chhetri has also been named AIFF Player of the Year four times in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

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