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‘Regular tournaments a must for development’

India’s hopes of developing as a soccer-playing nation are reliant on regular participation in tournaments like the Asian Cup, captain Sunil Chhetri feels.

‘Regular tournaments a must for development’
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Sunil Chhetri

Mumbai

Chhetri will be hoping to lead India to the 2019 Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates after the world’s second-most populous nation missed out on the last edition of the tournament in Australia two years ago. 

India, who have only reached the finals on three previous occasions, have been drawn alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau in Group A of the last round of qualifiers, with the top two teams advancing to the expanded tournament.

The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision to increase the number of finalists from 16 to 24 has given the country a better chance of qualifying and Chhetri believes it is an opportunity India should not pass up. 

“To be honest, we should be playing at the Asian Cup every time. That’s the parameter we need to use to judge if we are doing well or not,” Chhetri said in an interview.

“We have to keep playing in the Asian Cup which will mean rubbing shoulders with the best in the region. You know the quality you are playing against and then you know how much you have improved.” 

A quick glance at India’s group opponents shows that Kyrgyzstan are ranked six places above them, Myanmar are 159th and Macau are a further 25 places adrift, yet Chhetri is refusing to read too much into those numbers. 

“As far as our hopes are concerned, I have played enough to understand that you cannot think about the chances yet,” India’s mostcapped player with 92 appearances said.

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