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Sunil Chhetri wants tougher games for Indian football team ahead of Asian Cup 2019

Sunil Chhetri also ruled out his comparison with star striker Lionel Messi, saying that the Argentinean is of an entirely different level

football Updated: Jun 11, 2018 18:09 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sunil Chhetri,Indian football team,Asian Cup 2019
Sunil Chhetri guided the Indian football team to the Intercontinental Cup 2018 title on Sunday.(PTI)

A day after FIFA overhauled its ranking system to limit manipulation by teams to maintain ranking points, India football captain Sunil Chhetri called for more games against tougher teams.

Speaking on 2019 Asian Cup, Chhetri, who scored a brace in 97th ranked India’s Intercontinental Cup final win over No. 112 Kenya, said India needed to play tougher teams in the lead up to the January 5- February 1 tournament in UAE.

“We should play as many games as possible. If I may say so, our away record has been poor. We can’t invite the better ranked teams at home. But I believe we should play stronger opponents in away games to be among the top 10 in Asia,” Chhetri said, on the sidelines of announcing 2018 World Cup official match ball carriers from India, in association with FIFA and KIA Motors.

READ | India captain Sunil Chhetri satisfied with his performance in Intercontinental Cup

India have been grouped alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in the Asian Cup.

New FIFA system

The existing FIFA system uses annual average points to determine ranking. So, if a team refrains from playing after a string of favourable results, their average point may be more than those playing more games. It will help them hold their rank or even improve even without playing.

The new system, a modified ELO rating, adds or subtracts points (as opposed to averaging points) for individual matches to/from a team’s existing point total.

READ | Sunil Chhetri scores brace as India beat Kenya 2-0 to win the Intercontinental Cup

According to FIFA, in the new system the points added or subtracted are partially determined by the relative strength of the two opponents, including the logical expectation that teams higher in the ranking should fare better against teams lower in the ranking.

‘No comparison with Messi’

Chhetri, who scored his 64th international goal against Kenya to equal Lionel Messi’s record, said there should be no comparison with the Argentina great. Chhetri is now only behind Cristiano Ronaldo (81 goals) among active international players in terms of goals.

“There is absolutely no comparison. They are world-class players. I have seen the graphics on me getting same number of goals as Messi. One should just watch those memes, be happy and forget about it,” he said.

“In my mind, the first goal is to get inside Asia’s top 10. We have to accept that we are still not there. Teams like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Australia are much better than us.”

First Published: Jun 11, 2018 18:08 IST