Former captain Baichung Bhutia on Thursday raised concerns about the Indian football team’s goal-scoring dependency on Sunil Chhetri, saying there was no other player who could match his quality in the national set-up.
Chhetri, captain of the Indian team, is in the twilight of his career but has been India’s go-to man for the last few years when it comes to goals. Despite new head coach Igor Stimac shaping a young team since taking charge in May, no other striker has been able to fill Chhetri’s shoes till now.
“Once Sunil (Chhetri) leaves we don’t have anybody who can score goals. When Sunil is not able to score there is nobody else who can score. There is no one who can do even half of what Sunil is doing,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
“Defence is another worry as we have not found anyone who can completely lead from there. Sunil is already 35-plus and once he goes there is a big vacuum. I’m scared about how we will bridge the gap when some of our top players leave the Indian team in the next few years. It is a huge task,” he added.
India are set to resume their Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifiers campaign on Thursday as they face Afghanistan away from home and then travel for Oman, five days later. The former East Bengal striker echoed Stimac’s comments over the lack of training time in the national camp as players were busy with club commitments in the Indian Super League.
“It’s not a new thing. During our time, we had camps for 1-2 months but now you don’t require that as the players are constantly playing and training at a good level. But we need to give them at least a week or so to train together. Our priority should be still with the national team to give us good results,” he said.
“The biggest problem for us is that we are not getting our structure right and hopefully that will be set right with the promotion-relegation starting (in ISL) from 2022,” he explained.