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Sunil Chhetri: North Macedonia's win over Italy gives India great motivation

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Anil Dias | Updated on: Tuesday, March 29, 2022, 07:20 PM IST

(L-R) Fanatic Sports CEO Raghav Gupta, India skipper Sunil Chhetri and director at match hospitality AG at the launch of FIFA WC Qatar 2022 official hospitality program in Mumbai on Friday |
(L-R) Fanatic Sports CEO Raghav Gupta, India skipper Sunil Chhetri and director at match hospitality AG at the launch of FIFA WC Qatar 2022 official hospitality program in Mumbai on Friday |
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North Macedonia stunned the world when they beat European champions Italy 1-0 last week in their 2022 FIFA World Cup playoff match. The loss meant Italy couldn’t qualify for their second successive World Cup.

India skipper Sunil Chhetri, said at an event recently, for a lowly-ranked defensive team to beat the European champions gives the Blue Tigers great motivation.

North Macedonia had just 34% possession and four shots over 90 minutes, but they took their opportunity against the run of play clinically, with Aleksandar Trajkovski picking up a loose ball in the 92nd minute, driving forward and firing a sensational winner from outside the area.

“Such a big shock. Who would’ve expected Italy to go out. During the European Championship, I was thinking it’s going to be impossible to stop a team like that. But look what happened. It just shows that throughout the world, you can’t pick who’s going to win,” he said on the sidelines of the launch of Fanatic Sports as the official hospitality partner in India for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar (November 21 to December 18, 2022).

India’s football team will really hope for a change in fortunes ahead of their forthcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

India lost both the international friendlies they played last week, losing 2-1 to hosts Bahrain before being blanked 3-0 by Belarus.

37-year-old Chhetri, who missed both those friendlies as he’s still recovering from an injury, revealed he’s never got a chance to watch a FIFA World Cup match in a stadium.

“I've hosted a few World Cup matches from TV studios, but I’ve never been to one because I was too busy playing for my country,” he said.

Though he hasn’t been for a World Cup match, he has played in Qatar, the venue of this year’s World Cup, and he said it’s going to be a fabulous tournament.

"We (Indian team) played some matches in Qatar and it's a great experience to play in their air-conditioned venues. It's around 42 degrees outside, but when you enter the ground it's brilliant at 18 degrees. Besides, some of the stadiums have so many facilities like huge hotels and lounges within. It's a world-class experience," he added.

Chhetri refused to pick a favourite for the tournament, but said he hopes an Asian team does well.

“Japan and Qatar are both good teams and I hope they can play well,” he said.

Fanatic Sports has been appointed as the joint exclusive sales agent of Match Hospitality in India for the sale of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Official Hospitality Programme.

Their founder and CEO Raghav Gupta said this is a big opportunity for Indian fans.

“It’s hardly a three-and-a half-hour flight away from here,” he said, adding, “It is likely to be the last World Cup for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have the biggest fan bases in India. We expect Indians to outnumber many traditional travelling fans from Europe and South America this time.”

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Published on: Tuesday, March 29, 2022, 07:20 PM IST