SAFF Championship: Indian football team faces Maldives in must-win clash

The Indian football team goes into the the final group game against Maldives on Wednesday needing a win to seal its spot in the SAFF Championship final.

Indian football team

With five points from two draws and one win, the Indian football team is currently third below Maldives (six points from three matches) and Nepal (six points from three matches). Nepal plays Bangladesh (fourth place with four points) in an earlier match on Wednesday.   -  AIFF MEDIA

Needing an outright win to remain alive in the SAFF Championship, the Indian football team will take on host Maldives in its final round-robin league match on Wednesday.

A draw or a loss will see seven-time champion India miss the final, which could further raise questions on head coach Igor Stimac's future with the team. India's worst performance SAFF Championship so far was the third-place finish in 2003 and the team has either won or finished runner-up in 11 previous editions. All the four top sides in the five-team tournament remain in contention for the October 16 final.

RELATED| SAFF Ch'ship: What India needs to qualify for final

With five points from two draws and one win, India is currently placed third below Maldives (six points from three matches) and Nepal (six points from three matches). Nepal plays Bangladesh (fourth place with four points) in an earlier match on Wednesday.

Two-time and defending champion Maldives has never been easy opponents for India in the history of this regional tournament though the island country sits 51 ranking points below India in FIFA chart at 158th.

The side led by veteran Ali Ashfaq, one of the best strikers in the region, has regrouped after losing its opening match against Nepal by beating Bangladesh 2-0 and Sri Lanka 1-0.

Just like India captain Sunil Chhetri, the 36-year-old Ashfaq has carried Maldives football on his shoulders for a long time and has scored two of his side's three goals in this tournament. He will, no doubt, be the man India will have to be wary about.

India felt the absence of experienced Sandesh Jhingan in deep defence as it could not defend a 1-0 lead against 10-man Bangladesh, which scored a late equaliser despite numerical inferiority. In the second match against 205th-ranked Sri Lanka, Indian forwards, including Chhetri, had an off day as they could not create enough chances and also failed to finish whatever few scoring opportunities that came their way to hold on for a 0-0 draw.

RELATED| I hope to keep playing and scoring in foreseeable future: Chhetri after equalling Pele

Chhetri came to the rescue of the team once again against Nepal, scoring the decisive goal to equal the legendary Pele's tally of 77 international goals. The team continues to depend on Chhetri for goals and lacks any proven goalscorers.

Udanta Singh, right winger, has been inconsistent though he has shown flashes of his abilities at the flanks while Seriton Fernandes in defence and Brandon Fernandes in the midfield have done reasonably well.

Stimac rued the inability of his forwards to convert the scoring chances. "We need to improve our scoring from the chances which we are creating," he said.

"It is simple, if we do that, games become very easy. Otherwise you need to suffer till the end, or even beyond the end," he added, still confident that his side can reach the final.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :