SAFF Cup: India looks to carry momentum against Maldives

While India has more or less qualified to the semifinals, and a win against Maldives will see it top Group B.

The Indian players celebrating a goal during their 2-0 win against Sri Lanka.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Defending champion India, who defeated Sri Lanka 2-0 in its opening match, will be looking for a win against Maldives on Sunday to top its group and progress to the semifinals of the SAFF Cup.

Despite India starting its defence of the SAFF Cup campaign in style against Sri Lanka, national coach Stephen Constantine had said that his team "was not going to start as favourites in any of the matches" in this tournament.

"In this competition, we are not going to start as favourites in any of our matches. We are a young and inexperienced side and we are playing against senior sides. We can say we have a good chance to win this game. But I don't feel we can be labelled as favourites before the kick-off,” he said.

History points out that India has got the better of Maldives 13 out of 18 times the two sides have gone head-to-head, whereas Maldives has won only twice. The last time the two teams met in the SAFF Championship was in the 2015-16 semifinal in Trivandrum, which India won 3-2, thanks to a Jeje Lalpekhlua brace and a Sunil Chhetri strike.

However, Constantine reflected that 'history' won't play any part when the two teams meet on Sunday.

READ | Dominant India beats Sri Lanka 2-0 in SAFF Championship opener

"I am not a person who loves to focus on history too much. Obviously, it's nice to look back to find that we have beaten them 13 times. But such facts don’t matter at all. Tomorrow we are playing against a completely different Maldives team and they're also going to face a different India team whom they played last time. Had we won those 13 matches against the same set of players, that would have given us an edge,” he maintained.

Reflecting on Sarthak Golui and Ashique Kuruniyan being cautioned in India’s opener against Sri Lanka, Constantine admitted it is a “concern”, adding that they will "have to be a bit careful tomorrow".

Farukh Choudhary who made his India debut against Lanka felt the team is not "under any pressure” at the moment.

"We are not under any sort of pressure. Personally, I am enjoying every single moment in my first National Team endeavour. Yes, it could have been a dream debut for me had I scored. But leaving the ground with three points is all that mattered,” he said, adding, “Coach mentioned last day and that our performance was below par. We have realised it too. We can do much better than that. We could have scored a few more goals. We are working on our mistakes and are hopeful to be more clinical tomorrow."

Maldives, meanwhile, played a goalless draw against Sri Lanka in its tournament opener and will be in desperate hunt for that elusive point which will lift them into the semi-finals. Sri Lanka, with a loss and a draw in its two matches, has very little chance of staying in the competition. Unless India defeats Maldives by more than two goals, Sri Lanka gets eliminated and Maldives will be through to the semifinals.

 

India vs Maldives match details —

Date: September 9, 2018

Time and Telecast: 6:30 PM IST, LIVE on D Sports

Venue: Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka, Bangladesh

 

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