Who Can Replace Sunil Chhetri In The Indian Football Team?

The striker position in the Indian football team is one that has remain untouched ever since 2005 when a 20-year-old Sunil Chhetri made his way into the team which is why the all-important question arises, who will take up the mantle after Chhetri’s final game? The Indian footballing scene has grown so accustomed to having the country’s leading top scorer up front that there are no out and out strikers left. A majority of the teams in the ISL have foreign center forwards to make up for the lack of goal scorers in the country.

“I think it’s time for our country to see the next number 9. It is time we build on it. Already we are a little bit handicapped because a lot of players and a lot of my national team boys do not play as number nine for their clubs and that’s a different topic we can talk about. At Least now, when I am not going to be there, I am pretty sure a lot of them are going to step up and they will need time,” said Sunil Chhetri in his announcement.

The first two names that come to mind when thinking about India’s hunt for the next number nine are the Mumbai City FC duo, Lallianzuala Chhangte and young breakout star Vikram Partap Singh. The two combined for three goals in stoppage time in the first leg of the semi-finals of the Indian Super League to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against FC Goa.

Following Chhetri’s departure, Indian football urgently needs to figure out where the goals will come from and 26-year-old Chhangte might be the short-term answer. He has been lighting up the wing with his pace, skills and technical ability. He scored 10 goals and provided six assists in this edition of the Indian Super League. A false nine situation may be better suited to his abilities.

What made Mumbai City champions this season was their lethal attack from both wings as Vikram Partap Singh scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists in the title winning season.

What is the most appealing about the Chandigarh born forward is his work ethic. At just 22 years, he has shown relentless pressing which is one of the factors that separated the Indian captain from those around him. Singh has surely shown potential that he can be nurtured into the center forward role in the future.

Another name that comes to mind is that of Chennaiyin FC player, Rahim Ali who has on occasion been the man to replace Chhetri on the pitch as a substitute. He is also the only Indian player who has on occasions played as a center forward for his club.

The hunt for India’s next number nine will carry on till a viable option does not prove his consistency in the team. It will be interesting to see who Igor Stimac uses in India’s first game without their star striker on June 11 against Qatar in what is their Final qualifier of this round. Maybe a change in formation could be on the cards as a false nine situation may be more viable for the men in blue in such a short notice period.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Hindkesharistaff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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