The Indian national team lifted the 2018 Intercontinental Cup by defeating Kenya 2-0 in the final at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday. Both the goals were scored by India skipper Sunil Chhetri (8′, 29′) in the first half.
Organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the quadrangular tournament also featured New Zealand and Chinese Taipei.
Stephen Constantine’s men thumped Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the opening game before grabbing another victory over Kenya with a 3-0 scoreline.
However, a narrow 2-1 loss to New Zealand in the final group game could not prevent the hosts from entering the final where they beat the Harambee Stars yet again.
This is the Blue Tigers’ fifth consecutive win in a multi-national tournament hosted by the AIFF, which includes the 2007, 2009 and 2012 Nehru Cups and the previous year’s Tri-Nation series held at the same venue.
Sunil Chhetri, who won his 100th India senior cap in the group game against Kenya ended up as top scorer with eight goals. Jeje Lalpekhlua, who himself completed 50 appearances for India against New Zealand grabbed two assists with Anirudh Thapa too getting a couple.
Moreover, Chhetri has equalled Argentine forward Lionel Messi’s record of 64 goals in terms of the number of international goals scored by an active footballer after surpassing David Villa’s tally of 59 goals with Spain earlier in the tournament and only remains behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s 81 goals for Portugal.
The All Whites’ teenage sensation Sarpreet Singh emerged as the breakthrough performer of the tourney with a goal, two assists and also won a penalty that was converted by his side. India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu managed to keep three clean-sheets.
Placed 97th in the FIFA Rankings, India will now shift focus in building up to the AFC Asian Cup in January next year. Constantine’s next assignment will be the Asian Games in Indonesia in August where the U23 side will take part.
Immediately after, the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship will take place in Bangladesh in September. The AIFF meanwhile, have already lined up two friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Syria for the final quarter of 2018.