After having brushed aside Pakistan, India will look to dish out the same treatment to Nepal in its second Group-A match of the SAFF Championship at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday.
Nepal, at 174, is the third-lowest-ranked team in the competition after Pakistan and Bangladesh and is coming off an opening-day defeat to Kuwait (1-3). Against a formidable and confident Indian team, it will need a rousing performance.
India will not have coach Igor Stimac on the touchline after the red card against Pakistan triggered the automatic one-match suspension. But the burly Croat was at Friday’s training, leading the huddle and giving a pep talk.
Sahal Abdul Samad, one of Stimac’s favourite players, is eager to put to use all the acquired training-ground knowledge. In the pre-match interaction, the 26-year-old creator stressed the need to “contribute more” to take some burden off skipper and talisman Sunil Chhetri.
Against Pakistan, India stitched together many promising passing moves but couldn’t quite get it right in the final third until the very end, when Anwar Ali released Udanta Singh through on goal with a wonderful overhead pass.
Sticking to process
“We have a fantastic player who scores goals for us,” Sahal said, smiling ear-to-ear. “The coach asks us to change that, and we need to start scoring. Not just Sunil bhai.
“Of course, we are happy to have him, [but] everything is a process and it can’t be changed suddenly. Four years [ago] we started to see a change in our way of playing, and we are really happy with the way we are going.”
Ready for challenge
For Nepal, it’s a do-or-die clash, for two losses out of two will sound the death knell. But in such situations, teams can sometimes throw caution to the wind.
“We have played them before, and we had a video session now,” said Sahal. “They are good; they fight and are fearless. [But] we are ready for them.”
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