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The Indian national team skipper is enlivened by his experience so far with Sporting CP’s ‘B’ side and backs the Blue Tigers to successfully defend their Nehru Cup title.

Sunil Chhetri opines that India are certainly way better than what the latest FIFA ranking suggests as the national team has plunged further down in the standings to 168in the world.

The 28 year believes that for the country to improve its ranking, it has to regularly play matches on FIFA dates.

“We have to play friendlies and on FIFA dates. When we defeated Afghanistan in the SAFF final, we got 129 points. It’s nothing. When Portugal beat Netherlands in the Euro group stages, they got 2,379 points. We need to play more matches with higher-ranked nations to improve our ranking. We are certainly not 168 and I can vouch for that,” Chhetri told the media assembled at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Chhetri, who joined Sporting CP’s ‘B’ side, is pleased with his move to Portugal and explained how it has transformed his perspective towards the game.

“It has been a wonderful experience, it’s been just 28 days, and playing at such a top level has opened up my mind. My mentality towards the way I look at football has changed completely. The intensity of the game is much higher there, at a different level altogether,’’ he explained.

Speaking of India’s chances at the Nehru Cup, Chhetri mentioned that the going will not be easy but backed his team to perform well.

“Being defending champions, we’re looking to continue that and do well. Cameroon and Syria are very good sides, Nepal and Maldives are no pushovers either and we’re there, so it’s going to be a tough tournament,” he said.

Chhetri, in his very first day with the national team, participated in a practice friendly against an assorted Bangalore XI side where all the 27 squad members were given a run in. Interestingly Chhetri scored with his very first touch in the game as he played for a quarter of an hour. And it doesn’t surprise that Chhetri has joined the bandwagon of praising the new style of play which Koevermans plans to employ.

“But under coach Koevermans we are heading in the right direction. We are concentrating more on keeping the ball and playing with five midfielders. When we lose the ball, we will all fall back and help the defence. We are not emulating any particular country or style here. We have our own technique and I am sure that beginning with the Nehru Cup, over time it will work wonders,” Chhetri was quoted saying.

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