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Asian Cup teams will be a lot tougher: Chhetri

Kolkata, June 12: Not willing to read too much into their Intercontinental Cup win, India captain Sunil Chhetri on Tuesday said the 2019 AFC Asian Cup would be ‘at a different level’ with teams like UAE, Bahrain and Thailand.

“It was a great preparatory tournament for us. We don’t play teams like Kenya and New Zealand everyday. It was a different challenge. No matter how much we improve, it might still be less,” Chhetri told reporters after receiving the Indian Player of Year award at the Football Players Association of India (FPAI) Awards at the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club here.

“With due respect to Kenya and New Zealand, the teams that are competing against us in the Asian Cup — like Thailand, Bahrain and UAE — they are at least two-three levels up.

“It’s a different level altogether. We all try our best to prepare well and everyone comes to the camp in December fit and injury-free,” the 33-year old added.

Chhetri urged his teammates to keep their heads down and continue working hard without getting carried away by the triumph in the four-nation meet in Mumbai.

“Where we want to reach is very far. We are just taking small steps. There is no point getting carried away. We should work hard keeping our heads down and try to keep improving ourselves,” the Indian captain said.
Chhetri, who netted eight goals in four matches, also played his milestone 100th match in India colours.

He also became joint second highest International goal scorer among active players along with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi with his 64th strike. IANS

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Ankur Kalita