Sunil Chhetri never thought he would one day play the Asian Cup finals, line up against opponents who are names in the English Premier League and have played World Cups. "I would dream about it though," he said, before the final training session ahead of India's opener against Australia on Monday.
Chhetri is India's only hattrick man in this millennium and plays for Kansas City Wizards in the USA's Major League Soccer. His hattrick in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup got India the ticket to Doha and he got another one, against Vietnam last October. Less than one day before the "biggest game" of his career, Chhetri said he is "trying to stay calm but it isn't easy."
His priorities though seem sorted - Chhetri wants to do well for coach and country. "And I think I am speaking for the whole squad when I say this. If there is one person who has got us here it is Bob Houghton (national coach). Unlike in the past, reputation of our opponents doesn't scare us. We don't lose matches in the mind before kick-off anymore and Bob's responsible for that," the striker told HT over phone.
"Everywhere he has coached, China, Uzbekistan, Sweden, Bob's left behind a legacy. Irrespective of what happens in the Asian Cup, I want him to stay in India for as long as he wants to."
Ahead of taking on an Australia team studded with World Cup veterans, Chettri said he hoped "we would keep our shape and not scatter."