The final of SAFF Cup 2015 is almost upon us, and we have got two of the best teams in the competition crossing swords. The final of the prestigious South Asian football tournament is expected to be nothing but mouthwatering.
India take on Afghanistan in the repeat of the 2013 SAFF Cup final. Two years ago, Nepal was the venue. This time it is Kerala.
The Indian national football team have had quite a good home record in the tournament over the years. Out of their total six SAFF Cup titles, two have come at home. Incidentally, this is the third time the competition is being hosted in the nation as well.
Will that luck prevail on Sunday? It needs to be seen. Luck or not, India coach Stephen Constantine has his priorities straight. The British coach has urged his army to keep their foot firmly on the ground, as the final is a different ball game.
"We still haven't won anything. We have only got to the finals. I ask everybody to stay calm and simply support us," Constantine said after his team's 3-2 win against Maldives in the semi final on New Year's Eve. "This is nothing to be excited about there is still a game that we need to win."
Afganistan, on the other hand, decimated Sri Lanka 5-0 in their semi final game. The defending champions have averaged four goals a game in the competition this year, and that says a lot about the quality of the team.
Afghan national football team coach Petar Segrt has revealed that most of the players in the team play in Germany, Denmark, the US, Bahrain, Malaysia, etc, to brush up their football skills. "Of the list of 20 [players] which we have registered in the SAFF Suzuki Cup, five come from Afghanistan while the rest of the 15 players stay and play outside Afghanistan," the Croatia-born German coach said.
In the latest FIFA rankings, Afghanistan are at the 150th spot, while India are at the 166th spot.
SAFF Cup final schedule:
Fixture: India vs Afghanistan.
Venue: Trivandrum International Stadium, Kerala.
Date: 3 January, 2016.
Time: 6:30 pm IST.
TV listings: Star Sports 4/HD 4 (entire subcontinent, except Afghanistan), Doordarshan (India), Kantipur TV (Nepal), Bangladesh TV (Bangladesh), BBS (Bhutan), Moby Q (Afghanistan), TVM (Maldives), Rupabahini (Sri lanka).
India: Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul, Gurpreet, Karanjit. Defenders: Aiborlang, Lalchhuanmawia, Kaushik Sarkar, Arnab Mondal, Augustine, Narayan Das, Pritam Kotal. Midfielders: Lallianzuala, Rowlin Borges, Sanju Pradhan, Eugeneson, Bikash Jairu, Pronay. Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Holicharan Narzary, Jeje.
Afghanistan: Goalkeepers: Ovays Azizi, Fardeen, Kakar. Defenders: Hassan, Roholla, Anoush, Sayed, Masih, Mustafa. Midfielders: Abassin, Faysal, Mustafa, Hatifi, Omid, Amiri, Taher. Forwards: Zubayr, Khaibar, Anwar, Hakimi.