Ones to Watch: Sunil Chhetri (India)
Kuala Lumpur: Perhaps no single player in the continent is as important for their home nation as Sunil Chhetri has been for India over the past decade.
India have booked their place amongst Asia's top 24 national teams thanks in a large part to Sunil Chhetri, who - even at the age of 34- continues to be unrivalled as the country's best player and widely acknowledged as the finest footballer it has ever produced.
Date of birth: 03/08/1984
Current club: JSW Bengaluru (India)
Previous clubs: Mohun Bagan, JCT, East Bengal, Dempo, Chirag United, Churchill Brothers, Mumbai City (All India); Sporting B (Portugal)
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Chhetri is both India's all-time top scorer with 65 international goals, and the nation's most capped player with 103 caps, the first of which dates back to 2005, meaning his is set to be one of the most experienced players to compete at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
In 2008, Chhetri bagged a hat-trick in the final to help India win the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time in their history, sealing qualification to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, India's first since 1984.
In the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, Chhetri was India's top scorer with eight goals, leading the Blue Tigers to top their group and return to the continental showpiece after missing out on the 2015 edition.
Style of play
Capable of playing as a striker, attacking midfielder or a winger, Chhetri boasts nimble feet and an eye for goal. He is an accomplished set-piece taker, with many of his goals for club and country coming from direct free-kicks.
We look back at 5️⃣ of the best AFC Cup Knockout Stage goals, beginning with this cracker from @chetrisunil11!— AFC Cup (@AFCCup) July 23, 2018
Vote for your favourite now! 👉 https://t.co/dJ72FkvcdD#AFCCup2018 pic.twitter.com/W0mz2sV0Rx
Despite his deminutive figure, standing at just 170 cm, Chhetri has scored many headers, benefitting from an ability to find pockets of space in opposition defences.
What to look for
Chhetri scored two of India's three goals at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, including one against Bahrain who they face again this time around. The Blue Tigers also have the challenge of facing hosts the UAE as well as Thailand. The skipper will look to lead by example and get his name on the scoresheet again.
Where and when to watch him
India v Thailand
Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: January 6, 17:30 UTC+4
India vs UAE
Venue: Zayed Sport City, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: January 10, 20:00 UTC+4
India vs Bahrain
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: January 14, 20:00 UTC+4
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