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India starts favourite despite Afghanistan’s fighting ability

Skipper Sunil Chhetri one goal short of entering all-time top-10 list of scorers.

Sunil Chhetri will look to add to his tally and enter the all-time top-10 goal-scorers’ list as a buoyant India meets Afghanistan in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers here on Tuesday.

While India needs just a draw to secure a place in the third round of Asian Cup Qualifiers after Oman defeated Afghanistan 2-1 on Friday, a hat-trick for Chhetri will see him equal Pele in terms of numbers of goals scored in international arena.

Chhetri is also just one goal off entering the all-time top-10 list of scorers.

India ended its winless streak in international football when the captain struck a brace against Bangladesh in its previous outing.

India is already out of contention to progress further in the World Cup Qualifying campaign, and is now looking to secure a berth in 2023 Asian Cup. India will enter the game as clear favourite despite Afghanistan’s ability to fight it out.

High on confidence

Igor Stimac’s men will be high on confidence after dominating Bangladesh. The Indians enjoyed nearly 75% possession while completing more than 600 passes.

India will need Chhetri and Manvir Singh to fire upfront, with Brandon Fernandes marshalling the midfield and keeping the supply chain flowing.

Stimac dismissed apprehensions that India may play for a draw. “I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw,” Stimac said at the pre-match press conference.

“Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it. That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game.”

Stimac added: “The result against Bangladesh makes us confident. Afghanistan is a better side than Bangladesh, and it will not be easy.”

Match starts at 7.30 p.m.

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