Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri on Sunday added another feather to his glorious cap as he exceeded Argentina star forward Lionel Messi in the list of current international goalscorers in the world.

Sunil Chhetri professional footballer in the Indian national football team
File photo: Sunil Chhetri | Image Credits: AFC Media

Sunil has created history many times in football representing India like earlier he became the first Indian player to score a hat-trick, in his fourth game of the season, against NorthEast United, similarly when he became an icon when he leads India to win the Nehru Cup for the first time since 1997.

With his brace against Bangladesh in the joint preliminary qualifying round match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup on Monday night, the 36-year-old Chhetri attained the incredible achievement.

With two goals in the game, Sunil increased his total international goals count to 74, surpassing Messi, who is fourth on the list with 72 goals for Argentina in his career.

Chhetri and the Argentine maestro were locked on 72 goals at the beginning of the match, which also served as a qualifier for the AFC Asian Cup 2023. Last Monday, Messi scored his 72nd goal in the World Cup qualifiers when he converted a penalty kick against Chile in a 1-1 draw. When Sunil headed home from Ashique Kuruniyan's assist in the 79th minute against Bangladesh, he surpassed Messi.

The experienced forward, who steered India to their first win (2-0) in World Cup qualifiers in six years, is now second only to Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (103) in the list of active international goal-scorers.

Chhetri forefront Barcelona star Messi by two goals and sits a place above Ali Mabkhout of the UAE, who is third on the list with 73 strikes to his name.

"We were guilty of missing a lot of chances. We could have done better. It has been a topsy-turvy qualifying campaign. Looking back, we understand that we could have done a lot better.

"We will talk about it but I am happy that we got three points," Chhetri told PTI.

"You know what. All of this is past. We play Afghanistan, and we have to be at our best. It will be a new day, a new canvas. And it is up to us to paint it the manner we want to," he asserted.

Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed in Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left and afterward secured the triumph by twisting in a shot from long range in added Time, on Monday at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

India's captain is also just one goal away from breaking into the top ten of all-time in world football. Sandor Kocsis of Hungary, Kunishige Kamamoto of Japan, and Bashar Abdullah of Kuwait all have 75 goals.

Overjoyed with the team's victory and Chhetri's performance, All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel lauded the captain for leading from the front.

"Our @IndianFootball skipper Sunil Chhetri adds another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer with 74 goals. A big congratulations to Captain Fantastic & wishing him many more accolades in the future," Patel tweeted.

"Congratulations #BlueTigers on an awesome win over Bangladesh today & fabulous performance by skipper @chetrisunil11 who lead from the front & paved the path to victory. Your hard work & determination was visible on field. Wishing you all the very best in the upcoming game!" he said in another tweet.

Similarly, gratified with the team's triumph and Chhetri's achievement, Sports Minister of India, Kiren Rijiju praised the skipper. 

"Congratulations to @chetrisunil11 for overtaking Messi to become 2nd highest active international Goal-scorer! I enjoyed his brilliant 2 goals against Bangladesh which secured a win for India and put him on to 74 international goals⚽️⚽️," Rijiju tweeted.

The team India is already out of contention for the World Cup in 2022, but they still have a chance to compete in the Asian Cup in China.

India will play Afghanistan on June 15th at the same arena in the hopes of finishing third in Group E and securing a ticket in the Asian Cup in 2023.

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