SAFF Championship: India faces Nepal in must-win match

With two matches left in the group stage, and both are must-win ones if India is to make the SAFF Championship final.

Igor Stimac with the players during a training session.   -  AIFF MEDIA

With their pride hurt, the Indian men's football team is desperate to get back to a winning streak when it takes on Nepal in the ongoing SAFF Championship. With two matches left in the group stage, and both are must-win ones if India is to make the final.

“Nothing much has changed,” head coach Igor Stimac maintained in the official pre-match press conference. “We are here, and we are still alive in the Championship. We are still here to win the tournament,” he added.

Interestingly, the two teams had played two back-to-back International Friendlies in Kathmandu in the first week of September where India had won the second match 2-1, after having drawn the first.

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“We know them very well and have played twice against them. It’s an open game and if we play well, and do it right on the pitch, I am sure that we can win the game. There is no other option for us than to go out there and win it,” Stimac stated.

Nepal is leading the points table at the moment on 6 points having won both its matches against Maldives and Sri Lanka. “They may have a different approach. They may calculate while playing against us. But we are not worried about them. We will go out to do our job from the first minute itself,” the coach added.

The Blue Tigers had their practice session in the morning on Saturday, and the news from the camp is that there are no injury concerns with all 23 players available for selection.

Midfielder Brandon Fernandes insisted that the team has “everything to play for.”

Speaking at the official pre-match press conference, Brandon quipped: “We have had two disappointing results so far. Understandably, the mood was dull in the camp. But tomorrow we have everything to fight for. We are positive, and have prepared well for this game. Everyone is focussed in winning the match.”

Stimac echoed the same sentiment mentioning about the lack of discipline on the pitch. “We haven’t been disciplined enough on the pitch. For all those simple mistakes, we are currently on two points whereas we should have been on 6 points now,” he opined. “We know it will not be easy against Nepal. But we could win against them in Kathmandu, we can do it here too. But I reiterate that for that to happen we need to be committed and disciplined.”

Brandon, however, dismissed apprehensions that the Blue Tigers are thinking a bit too much about their opponents. “We are not thinking much about Nepal. Rather, we have been concentrating on what we need to do once it kicks off. Nepal are a good team and are in a good position at the moment. But each and every player is prepared – right from the 11 on the pitch to the bench -- everyone is ready to make an impact as and when called for.”

Brandon also lauded the coach for “giving us the confidence.”

“Every football match has its own pressure. But the coach has been giving us confidence and backing us. Tomorrow is a day when we need to show it on the pitch,” he uttered.

Everyone is aware, raring to go. ''The manner we see it is that we are in the quarterfinals at the moment. We need to win to get to the next one, and then to the next. But let it one at a time,'' Kotal expressed.

The kick-off is at IST 9.30 pm and the match will be telecast live on Eurosport.

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