Kathmandu: Today can be a historic day in the 28-year-long journey of Nepali football in the SAFF Championship.
In the final match of the 13th edition of the SAFF Championship, Nepal, which have never been in the final of the tournament, is locking horns with the seven-time champion India at the National Football Stadium in Male, the Maldives.
Nepal have already created history reaching the final of the tournament for the first time since the inception of SAFF in 1993.
Although the 13th edition of the SAFF Championship has already been historic for Nepal, the final match is not going to be an easy task for Abdullah Almutari’s men.
India, who made a disappointing start to the tournament, looked fierce in the last two games playing attacking football. In a do-or-die match for India against the Maldives, the Blue Tigers defeated the defending champion 3-1 to reach the final of the tournament.
The Blue Tigers have looked fierce in the field in the second half of the tournament. Although the seven-time champion played a stalemate against relatively weaker teams—Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, India made a strong comeback winning their last two games.
The Blue Tigers have scored four goals in the last two games and have conceded just once.
Although Nepal made a strong start, it had to rely on a penalty goal against Bangladesh to qualify for the final.
The SAFF Championship’s history shows India is way stronger than Nepal. The two sides have met seven times in the tournament, with India beating Nepal on six occasions.
Nepal have only beaten India once in SAFF Championship 2013 held in Kathmandu. In the match played in Kathmandu, Nepal won 2-1 against India. The win was Nepal’s first against India since the inception of SAFF in 1993.
Since then, Nepal have lost twice to India in the regional tournament.
Both teams have locked horns with each other on 22 occasions, and Nepal have only won twice. The South Asian giant has beaten Nepal on 15 occasions, drawn in five games, and lost only twice.
Ahead of the game, Nepal’s Assistant Coach Kiran Shrestha said the team is in a good spirit to win the tournament for the first time.
“The final is a big one and India is a strong team. The game against India will be a tough one, but the team is motivated and in a high spirit to win the cup,” said Shrestha.
Nepal’s Head Coach Abdullah Almutairi did not appear in the press meet as he has already announced his departure from the Nepali football team.
Likewise, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri said Nepal have been the best team in the tournament as they play as a team. “They [Nepali team] may not have an extraordinary player like Ali Ashfaq, but as far as attacking and defending are concerned, they do it as a team,” said Chhetri.
Nepal will be playing without its star-winger Anjan Bista as he received his second yellow card in the game against Bangladesh.
After losing to India despite playing defensive football in the round match, Nepal is expected to play an attacking game today with a 4-3-3 formation.
India is way ahead in FIFA rankings than Nepal. The South Asian giants sit on 107th position, while Nepal is ranked 168th in the latest FIFA rankings.
The match will kick off at 8:45 pm.