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India vs Kuwait: We’ll give more than 100 per cent for Sunil Chhetri, says Sahal Abdul Samad

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The Indian team is confident it can give ‘more than 100 per cent’ in Sunil Chhetri’s farewell match against Kuwait here on Thursday, said attacking midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad on Tuesday.

A win against Kuwait in its penultimate round will also give them a shot at finishing in top-two in the group and advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time.

“We are looking forward to the game. We have that feeling we will fight for him, like we always do. He’s also ready to give his 100 per cent and why not us? We will also give our more than 100 per cent,” Sahal told the media on the sidelines of their training session at National Centre of Excellence.

The match will mark the end of a glittering 19-year-old international career of India’s football torchbearer Chhetri who, with 94 goals from 150 matches, is the third leading active goalscorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

ALSO READ | Rahim Ali, who considers Sunil Chhetri his idol, hopes to succeed him as India captain hangs up his boots

“From day one, he (Chhetri) has been my inspiration. It’s been great to play with him and share the dressing room with him,” said the 31-year-old.

“On my first day with the national team, he put his hand on my back and said, ‘This is a jersey everyone desires to wear’. I still vividly remember and cherish the moment,” he recalled.

Asked about Chhetri’s replacement, Sahal said, “I don’t know about the future, but what I know is the young generation is ready to step up.”

Having started off its Group A campaign beating Kuwait 1-0 in an away fixture, India’s performance dipped as it lost 0-3 to heavyweight Qatar.

It then went on to suffer a draw and a loss against the lowly Afghanistan to complicate its qualification hopes.

Afghanistan players celebrating after scoring against India during the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 preliminary joint qualification.

Afghanistan players celebrating after scoring against India during the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 preliminary joint qualification.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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Afghanistan players celebrating after scoring against India during the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 preliminary joint qualification.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

“This is football, anything can happen. We always play to win, and we will continue to work hard. Sometimes we fail and learn from our mistakes and move forward,” he said.

He blamed it on the team’s lack of preparation and said its month-long training camp in Bhubaneswar before shifting base here on May 29 had put it in perfect shape for the match against Kuwait.

“The more time we have for preparation, the better we perform. It’s always been like that. Last year we were together for so long and we reaped the benefits in the Intercontinental Cup and SAFF Cup. This time also, we had a good camp. The understanding between the players was amazing.”

The mercurial midfielder, rated highly by coach Igor Stimac, has had an injury-ridden season- first an ankle issue against Odisha FC, and then a pulled hamstring that had ruled him out of the home-and-away fixtures against Afghanistan.

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“I am very excited to be back, fully fit, and can’t wait to play in front of the fans. It’s always an honour to play for the national team.” Besides winning in the last round, India had beaten Kuwait in the SAFF Championship final on penalties in Bengaluru in July last year.

“Obviously it gives confidence, but this is a new game. Kuwait are a top side; it wasn’t easy to beat them at their home, and it won’t be easy beating them here too. Home or away doesn’t matter. We are ready to give them a hard time here with the home support,” he signed off.

India will end its Group A campaign, taking on Qatar in an away match on June 11 and if it finishes in the top-10, it will square off against the best in Asia over the course of a year in 10 matches.

It will also secure direct entry in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

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