The Changlimithang Stadium, in Thimphu, Bhutan, is all set as India and Bangladesh look to fight it out in the summit clash of the SAFF U-16 Championship 2023, on Sunday, September 10.
India and Bangladesh have already met each other in the first match of the tournament (the former winning 1-0), and the clash on Sunday could well serve to be a re-match of sorts.
India head coach Ishfaq Ahmed said, “We have worked so hard to get here, but we know that Bangladesh are a tough side, and we will have to work even harder to beat them in the final and achieve the dream.”
The Blue Colts finished top of Group A, defeating both Bangladesh and Nepal (both matches ending in 1-0 victories) before putting eight goals past the Maldives in the semifinal. While his boys exhibited a brand of free-flowing football, exerting complete dominance over the Maldives in the last match, Ahmed believes the final will be a totally different ballgame.
“We have played against them, and we expect them to be a very physical side. But this will be a good experience for the boys to show their quality. They are good at set-pieces and winning the 50-50 balls, so we cannot let our guard down. They have certainly improved over the last couple of matches,” he said.
The India U-16s began training approximately a month before the SAFF U-16 Championship in Srinagar, and the boys have grown exponentially since then.”
“The Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council has helped us a great deal in organising the camp smoothly, helping us out with a range of things including facilities, and equipment,” said Ahmed. “We are extremely thankful to them for it.”
India U-16 midfielder Levis Zangminlun, who was one of the standout performers in the semi-final win over the Maldives, feels that it is essential to put in the hard yards against Bangladesh in the final.
“We have already played against them, and they are a very strong team, very difficult to play against. A lot of hard work has gone into preparing for this tournament, from our side, and we want to make sure that that does not go in vain,” said Levis. “It’s been a great experience for us, but we need to put everything in this final stretch, to bring it home.”
Bangladesh, on the other hand, has shown steely resolve, ever since coming within inches of elimination from the tournament, after losing its first match against India. It defeated Nepal 1-0, and followed that up with a comeback victory against Pakistan (2-1), to book its spot in the summit clash.
Head coach Saifur Rahman Moni said, “It’s very nice to reach the final, but like I said before, we have a lot of respect for India. Our boys have grown mentally stronger since that initial loss against them, and I hope we can erase the mistakes that we have made previously. If we can do that, and stick to our plans, hopefully we can win this.”
Bangladesh captain Nazmul Huda Faysal feels that despite his side losing the first game against India, the boys have gained a lot of belief in the last two matches.
“These last two victories against Nepal and Pakistan gave us a lot of belief. India is a big team in SAFF, but we will play according to our plans. I think whoever can hold their nerve on the day will win, and I hope that’s us,” said Faysal.
The SAFF U-16 Championship 2023 Final between India and Bangladesh will kick off at 5.30 pm IST at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan and will be streamed live on the Sportzworkz YouTube channel.
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