In the semifinals of the SAFF Championship, Lebanon took India to a penalty shootout, which India eventually won 4-2; in the other semifinal, Kuwait had to wait until extra time to scrape out a 1-0 victory over Bangladesh.
India, the reigning champions, will compete against Kuwait, a strong opponent, in the final of the SAFF Championship on Tuesday in Bengaluru. India’s goal is to win their ninth title when they take on Kuwait. The path for the Indian team to the championship match was not an easy one. In the semifinals, they faced Lebanon, who took them to a penalty shootout, which India eventually won 4–2. In a similar vein, Kuwait prevailed over Bangladesh in extra time by the score of 1-0 despite having to put in a lot of effort to achieve their victory.
It is interesting to note that this will be India and Kuwait’s second meeting in this competition. During the Group A stage, their first match resulted in a disputed 1-1 draw. This match will be their second meeting in this competition. It’s possible that India will have a tiny edge thanks to the fervent support of their fans at the Kanteerava Stadium. However, there are concerns about their level of exhaustion after having to endure two arduous matches in quick succession.
These worries were addressed by the assistant coach, Mahesh Gawli, who expressed confidence that the team will be able to execute to the best of their abilities in the championship match.
If you just have one week, there is nothing you can accomplish, that is what I would want to say. However, when you get a month or more off, you focus more on your fitness, as Gawli explained.
“I guess we had almost 50 days. Luka Radman, who is our coach in charge of strength and conditioning, has done an excellent job. We have not observed any of our players suffering from cramping or injuries while they have been competing, nor have we witnessed any injuries to our athletes.
Additionally, India will receive a boost with the return of crucial defender Sandesh Jhingan, who was absent from the semifinal match against Lebanon owing to accumulated yellow cards acquired against Pakistan and Kuwait. Jhingan’s comeback will provide India with an advantage. Anwar Ali filled in for Jhingan admirably during his absence and was a critical component in the successful defence against the Lebanese assaults.
The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) disciplinary committee has decided to suspend Indian head coach Igor Stimac for a total of two matches, beginning with this one. As a result, Stimac will not be present in the Indian dugout for this encounter. During India’s game against Kuwait, Stimac was shown the red card for the second time in the competition. This came after he was sent off in India’s first match of the tournament, which was played against Pakistan.
In spite of this, India, under the guiding hand of the mystical Sunil Chhetri, has shown a resolute determination to prevail in the face of adversity. Chhetri, who had scored in three straight matches during the group stage, was held scoreless in the semifinal encounter against Lebanon, with the exception of his successful penalty kick in the shootout. Chhetri was unable to hit the back of the goal. The striker is going to be excited about the opportunity to make a more significant contribution in the championship game.
In addition, India will rely on the enthusiasm and support that will be offered by Sahal Abdul Samad, Mahesh Singh, and Udanta Singh on the pitch. These three players will attempt to provide Chhetri with dangerous crosses, and they will do so with the goal of scoring.
During the semifinals, Mahesh, who is generally utilised as a winger, was moved to the back line in order to provide more support to Chhetri, who is the team captain. Gawli dropped a few hints that this tactic would be used in the championship match as well.
We wanted him to play there (on the flanks) and feed Sunil Chhetri and the other wingers. He was acting in such a manner. Because of the physicality of the situation, we decided to keep Ashique (Kuruniyan) on the left, and he was performing really well there. He was moving quite quickly. “That was something that we did not want to change,” Gawli explained.
India, on the other hand, is well aware that Kuwait is a seasoned team, and they know that nothing short than their best performance will do in this match. Both of these teams are competing for the SAFF Championship, and they are about to face off in a confrontation that promises to be explosive.