The Indian men’s football team was dealt a massive blow on Monday, after captain Sunil Chhetri was ruled out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Iran with the striker failing to recover from a groin injury. India are scheduled to face Iran, who are ranked No.44, on March 24 at Tehran.
Chhetri was ruled out of the Iran match after struggling with a groin injury, which he had picked up earlier in the I-League.
Chhetri joins the likes of Robin Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who are already on the injury table after picking up long term injuries. With Chhetri and Robin Singh not available, coach Stephen Constantine will have to tinker with the squad that won the 2015 SAFF Championship in January.
India, who are ranked 160th in the World, lie at the bottom of Group D that comprises Iran, Turkmenistan, Guam and Oman. Although the team is out of the running in the qualification for the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers, the 1-0 win against Guam back in November has given the team hopes of making it to the next round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers. After the away match against Iran on March 24, India will fly back home to host Turkmenistan on March 29 at Kochi in the qualifiers, which will also act as the qualifiers for the Asian Cup.
Although he will miss the trip to Tehran, Chhetri is expected to be fit for the match against Turkmenistan at home. Iran had beaten India 0-3 in the reverse fixture at Bengaluru, last October. National coach Stephen Constantine also announced the 22-man squad for the match against Iran and Turkmenistan leaving out six players from the 28-man probable squad.
The squad list of 22 for the match against Iran is as follows: