Sunil Chhetri, the icon of Indian football, has eclipsed Lionel Messi, Argentina’s global superstar, to become the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 goals. On Monday night, the 36-year-old Chhetri scored a brace against Bangladesh in a dual preliminary qualifying round encounter for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The seasoned striker, who helped India win their first World Cup qualifier in six years, is now second only to Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (103) in terms of current international goal scorers.
Chhetri is two goals ahead of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and a position ahead of Ali Mabkhout of the United Arab Emirates, who is third on the list with 73 goals.
Last Thursday, Messi scored his 72nd international goal against Chile in a World Cup qualifier, while Mabkhout added to his total against Malaysia.
Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, heading in Ashique Kuruniyan’s cross from the left, and then clinched the victory in additional time by curling in a long-range goal.
India’s captain is also just one goal away from breaking into the top ten of all-time in world football. Sandor Kocsis of Hungary, Kunishige Kamamoto of Japan, and Bashar Abdullah of Kuwait all have 75 goals.
Praful Patel, head of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), praised Chhetri for leading from the front, praising the captain’s performance.
“With 74 goals, our @IndianFootball captain Sunil Chhetri surpasses Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer.
Patel wrote, “A big congrats to Captain Fantastic and hoping him many more awards in the future.”
The AIFF president also congratulated the squad on their emphatic victory, which was largely due to Chhetri’s skill.
“Congratulations to the #BlueTigers on their fantastic triumph over Bangladesh today, and especially to skipper @chetrisunil11, who led from the front and paved the way to victory.”
“On the field, your dedication and hard effort were evident. I wish you the best of luck in the future game!”
India’s first win in what was turning out to be a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign came thanks to Chhetri’s double. In addition, it was India’s first win in World Cup qualifiers away from home in 20 years.
India climbed to third place in Group E with six points from seven games after the victory.
On June 15, India will meet Afghanistan in the qualifiers.
The Blue Tigers are already out of contention for the World Cup in 2022, but they may still compete in the Asian Cup in China.