“Memorable careers do end on forgettable nights!!” - Sunil Chhetri ends his journey on a crestfallen night | India vs Kuwait Review | MBFT.IN

“Memorable careers do end on forgettable nights.” - Pulasta Dhar in the post match show. 

The line rightly describes the painful end to the Captain, Leader, legend, Sunil Chhetri's International career which has been marked by uncountable achievements and thousands of memories. With 94 goals to his name in 151 matches in Indian Colours, Sunil Chhetri bid adieu to the National team at such a time, where India was almost on the verge of qualifying for the world cups.

Nothing has been going easy for the ‘Blue Tigers’ in the recent times as they went from almost setting a foot in the next round of world cup qualifiers to virtually getting knocked out with a match left to play. Once again Igor stimac and his tactics has failed in big time to get India over the line in bigger stages. 

Even before the match started, there were high rising expectations regarding the match. On the other hand, tensions were also on the rise, given the Indian team's recent performances. The match was going to mark the end of an era in Indian Football, the retirement of Sunil Chhetri. 

Having previously won against Kuwait at their home ground raised the bar for the fans who thought of winning the match at the “Mecca of Indian Football”, Kolkata and sealing their place in the next round and that would also serve as a perfect goodbye for the legend, Sunil. Kolkata, was ever ready to cheer for the legend as he enters the ground for one final time in Indian Colours. 

Igor named his starting 11, with the evergreen captain of Indian Football, the man with 94 goals in 150 appearances for India, currently the third highest active goal scorer in the world leading the team as well as the forward line, joining him on the wings were Liston Colaco and Lallianzuala Chhangte. Midfield Trio composed of Sahal, Thapa and Suresh, back four was made up of Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Anwar Ali and Jay Gupta on the left, who was making his senior international debut. 

Chhetri, Liston, Chhangte, Sahal began the first half in a blazy fashion as they quickly wanted to wrap up goals, but Kuwait, a very professional side calmly and slowly absorbed the pressure and got them back in the match. But, this Indian side was not going to be dominated so sooner and got back on pressing time and again. 

Sahal, who was used as the creative unit for the side did deliver some passes but they were not poisonous enough to get the better of Kuwaiti players. Defenders also got in the action as they thwarted many counter attacks and kept the Kuwait attackers at bay. The first half ended 0-0.

Courtesy : ISL

At the beginning of the second half, Rahim Ali and Brandon Fernandes were substituted in to introduce more pace and creativity to the team. Initially, Rahim used his pace well and troubled defenders and also got 2 chances within a span of 5 minutes only to hit them off target. 

As, India introduced in more pace, they started to get more fouls just over the Kuwait penalty box but none of them were used properly. Brandon Fernandes literally wasted his set-piece deliveries which was not expected of him in this crucial stages. Manvir and Edmund, the debutant were also introduced later into the game to increase the speed. 

Manvir, Chhangte and Rahim used their speed but couldn’t open up the resilient Kuwait defense and as a result they ended the match 0-0 and are virtually out of the world cup qualifiers until and unless some miracle happens, i.e. a win at the home of the mighty Qataris.

Igor Stimac and his poor player selection as well as his tactics have been stopping India’s progress on the International Stage and the consistently poor results at bigger stages should now be a matter of concern for the AIFF officials. The players who have been performing brilliantly at club level at both domestic and international level are struggling to put up even a minimum percentage of the performance they are giving for club. 

Each and every time this can’t be a accident anymore. Questions will arise on all aspects. Crores of money are not spent on coaches and players to be a superpower in the SAFF region, maybe even not that with the way things are going. Players and coaches have to understand this, as they are representing 1.4 billion people of India.

With Captain, Leader, Legend Sunil Chhetri stepping down, whose successor is not yet known even to the coach speaks a lot. Sunil scored 94 goals in Indian Colours, the nearest man in terms of goal scored from the present squad is Lallianzuala Chhangte with 7 goals to his name in 36 matches though he made his senior team debut 9 years ago in 2015.

Losing to teams like Afghanistan or drawing to teams ranked much lower at home is a serious concern for the National team. As, the Man, the Myth, the Legend returned to the dressing room for one final time as a ‘Blue Tiger’, it was surely not a befitting goodbye for him. 

Him, being the main attacking threat for India at an age of 39 speaks of his caliber. Now, he bids goodbye, only time will tell, will Indian players level up their game and bring smile to the faces of 1.4 billion Indians or continue to embarrass them at International stage.

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