The Absence of a Legend: Sunil Chhetri Misses King’s Cup 2023 Clash with Iraq

The Indian men’s football team is gearing up for their King’s Cup 2023 journey, commencing with a semifinal showdown against Iraq on Thursday, September 7. However, there’s a notable absence from the Blue Tigers’ starting lineup. Coach Igor Stimac has assembled a star-studded playing XI to face Iraq, the highest-ranked team in the tournament. Nevertheless, the iconic Sunil Chhetri won’t be gracing the tournament with his presence.

“India’s captain, leader, and legend, and the third-highest active goal scorer in world football behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.”

Chhetri, the 39-year-old football stalwart, and his wife, Sonam Bhattacharya, welcomed a baby boy on August 31. Prior to the King’s Cup, Chhetri, with a heart full of paternal joy, expressed his desire to be with his wife during this special time. Consequently, he requested the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to excuse him from the tournament held in Thailand.

In Sunil Chhetri’s absence, Stimac has entrusted Manvir Singh with the responsibility of leading India’s attacking line against the formidable Lions of Mesopotamia, who currently hold the 70th spot in the FIFA rankings. This decision reflects the team’s respect for Chhetri’s contribution and the need to accommodate his personal priorities.

Notably, this matchup marks the first meeting between India and Iraq since 2010 when the two sides clashed in a friendly, resulting in a 2-0 victory for the Lions of Mesopotamia.

India vs. Iraq Head-to-Head

The historical head-to-head record between the Blue Tigers and Iraq is indicative of a challenging task ahead for Stimac’s side. The teams have crossed paths six times, with India managing only one draw and suffering five defeats. The solitary draw emphasizes the level of competition Iraq poses to the Indian team.

Starting Lineups

Let’s take a look at the starting lineups for this crucial King’s Cup 2023 semifinal:

India’s Starting XI Iraq’s Starting XI
Gurpreet Singh Jalal Hassan (GK)
Anwar Ali Merchas Doski
Sandesh Jhingan Frans Putros
Akash Mishra Rebin Sulaka
Anirudh Thapa Hussein Ali
Sahal Abdul Samad Amir Al-Ammari
Manvir Singh Ibrahim Bayesh
Jeakson Singh Osama Rashid
Mahesh Singh Bashar Resan
Nikhil Poojary Hussein Ali
Ashique Kuruniyan Ali Al-Hamadi

The absence of Sunil Chhetri leaves a significant void in India’s attacking lineup, but Manvir Singh, a promising talent, will be looking to make his mark and lead the team to victory against Iraq. It’s a challenging task, given Iraq’s historical dominance over India, but football is known for its unpredictability, and the Blue Tigers will undoubtedly give their best to secure a spot in the King’s Cup 2023 final.

Stay tuned for live score updates and in-game analysis as the action unfolds in this high-stakes encounter.

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