Sunil Chhetri’s International Retirement in 2024: A Historic Farewell of a Glorious Indian Footballer

As Sunil Chhetri prepares for his final match, India stands on the brink of making history.

Advancing to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers would mark the pinnacle of Indian football and the career of head coach Igor Stimac.

Sunil Chhetri’s International Retirement in 2024: A Historic Farewell of a Glorious Indian Footballer
Sunil Chhetri and Coach Igor Stimach in conversation. Photo Credit: Hindustan Times

“This game is more than a farewell to an icon; it’s about India defeating Kuwait,” stated Stimac. “We are ready.” Chhetri’s final match isn’t just about honoring a legend; it’s about achieving a milestone. For the first time, India could advance to the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and secure a spot in the 2027 Asian Cup finals.

Stimac, a coach with a World Cup bronze, a World Youth Championship gold, and experience in the Premier League, sees this as a defining moment. “If we qualify, it will be the biggest achievement of my career,” he said. Having embraced India since his tenure began in 2019, Stimac aims to bring joy to 1.4 billion Indians through this historic match.

Addressing nearly 200 journalists, Chhetri emphasized the significance of the game beyond his retirement. “Imagine India playing Japan or Australia in the third round. I’m getting goosebumps,” he said. Victory against Kuwait is crucial for this dream to materialize. A win would eliminate Kuwait from contention and likely secure India’s advancement, especially if Qatar defeats Afghanistan.

Both Chhetri and Stimac are focused on the team’s performance rather than the farewell. “This is one of the biggest games I’ve played in 19 years,” Chhetri remarked. With over 60,000 fans expected at Salt Lake Stadium, managing emotions will be key.

India has shown resilience against Kuwait in previous encounters, remaining unbeaten in three matches last year. “It will be a battle,” said Chhetri. Stimac acknowledges Kuwait’s individual quality but believes India is better prepared than ever.

Stimac confirmed Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as the starting goalkeeper due to his experience. Rahul Bheke and Anwar Ali are likely to anchor the central defense, with Nikhil Poojary as right-back. With Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) unavailable, Jeakson Singh and Suresh Wangjam might pair in central midfield. Liston Colaco, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sahal Abdul Samad are expected to start ahead, with Chhetri leading the attack.

The absence of impactful substitutes has been a concern, but Stimac remains optimistic. Forward David Lalhlansanga and midfielder Edmund Lalrindika might get crucial minutes. Additionally, Jay Gupta could make his first start, potentially setting up a memorable farewell for Chhetri.

As the match approaches, the anticipation is palpable. Chhetri has expressed that the manner of winning doesn’t matter; what matters is the victory itself. Whether it’s a goal by Sandhu or an assist by Gupta, the focus remains on achieving a historic milestone for Indian football.

Also Read: India’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier 2026 Against Kuwait: Evaluating Goalkeeper Concerns

Sunil Chhetri: A Football Legend Honored by Luka Modric Ahead of Retirement Match

Sunil Chhetri, the iconic figure of Indian football, received a remarkable tribute from Real Madrid’s Luka Modric on the eve of his retirement match against Kuwait in a World Cup qualifier.

Sunil Chhetri’s International Retirement in 2024: A Historic Farewell of a Glorious Indian Footballer
Luka Modric praised sunil. @Hindustan Times

As Sunil Chhetri prepares to bid farewell to international football, fans reminisce about his illustrious career spanning two decades. With 94 goals for India, he stands among the elite alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Ali Daei. Chhetri’s 150 appearances make him India’s most-capped player.

A Touching Tribute from Modric

In a heartwarming gesture, Luka Modric extended his best wishes to Chhetri in a video shared by India’s head coach, Igor Stimac. “Hi Sunil, I just want to say hello and wish you all the best in your last game for the national team,” Modric expressed. He continued, “Congratulations on your career, you are a legend of this game…”

Stimac’s Gratitude

Expressing gratitude, Stimac conveyed, “Thank you, Luka. We will do everything in our power to make our country and our captain proud.”

Chhetri’s Legacy

Chhetri’s accolades include the Arjuna Award (2011), Padma Shri (2019), and the prestigious Khel Ratna Award (2021), making him the first footballer to receive this honor.

Crucial World Cup Qualifier

As India stands second in Group A with four points, the match against Kuwait holds immense significance. With a win, India can bolster their position and honor Chhetri’s illustrious career with a memorable victory.

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