Chhetri Zooms Past Messi’s Tally with Twin-Strikes vs Bangladesh
He became the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 strikes, now only behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
Indian football talisman Sunil Chhetri has eclipsed Argentina's global superstar Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 strikes, next best only to Portugal's livewire Cristiano Ronaldo who has 103 goals to his credit.
The 36-year-old achieved the magnanimous feat with his brace against neighbours Bangladesh in the joint preliminary qualifying round match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Doha on Monday night.
The seasoned striker, who helped India register their first win in six years in World Cup qualifiers, leads Barcelona behemoth Messi by two goals and sits a place above Ali Mabkhout of the UAE, who is third on the list with 73 strikes to his name.
Messi scored his 72nd international goal in a World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday, while Mabkhout added to his tally against Malaysia, also last week.
At the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Monday, Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed home Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left, and then sealed the deal by curling in a shot from long range in added time.
The India captain is also just a goal away from entering world football's all-time top-10. He is behind Hungary's Sandor Kocsis, Japan's Kunishige Kamamoto, and Kuwait's Bashar Abdullah, who all have 75 goals under their belt.
Thrilled with the team's victory and Chhetri's awe-inspiring feat, All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel lauded the captain for leading from the front.
"Our @IndianFootball skipper Sunil Chhetri adds another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer with 74 goals. A big congratulations to Captain Fantastic & wishing him many more accolades in the future," Patel tweeted.
The AIFF boss was also effusive in the team’s praise for the convincing win that was built on Chhetri's brilliance. "Congratulations #BlueTigers on an awesome win over Bangladesh today & fabulous performance by skipper @chetrisunil11 who lead from the front & paved the path to victory,’’ he added.
"Your hard work & determination was visible on the field. Wishing you all the very best in the upcoming game!" Patel penned down.
Chhetri's twin strikes meant India opened their victory account in what was turning out to be a forgettable World Cup qualifying campaign in many years. Moreover, it drew close to India’s 20-year drought in World Cup qualifiers away from home.
With the win, India rose to the third spot in Group E with six points from seven games. Chhetri and his troops will next lock horns against Afghanistan in the qualifiers on 15 June. The side is already out of contention to qualify for World Cup 2022, but the Blue Tigers can still make the cut for the Asian Cup in China.
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