SAFF Cup 2021: India take on Nepal in the title-decider

India defeated Maldives 3-1 in their last match to secure top spot in the table while Nepal played out a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh.

Indian football team's training session ahead of their SAFF Cup 2021 final against Nepal; Credit: Twitter/@IndianFootball
By Sreejith C R | Oct 16, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Despite a stumbling start to the 2021 SAFF Championship campaign, India has reached the final for a 12th time. They will play Nepal for their eighth title on Saturday. The Blue Tigers defeated Maldives 3-1 in their final round-robin stage fixture to book a place in the final. Meanwhile, Nepal played out a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in their previous match. This allowed them to reach their first ever SAFF Cup final. If no goals are scored in final at Maldives after 90 minutes, the teams will have another 30 minutes of extra time. They also have the option of a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

India started their campaign with an underwhelming 1-1 draw against 10-man Bangladesh. They reached rock bottom after being held by Sri Lanka for a goalless draw. Sunil Chhetri scored a late winner to keep India alive in the competition by beating Nepal.

India slowly grew in confidence as the tournament progressed. It was a much-improved performance from India in their last match against Maldives. Manvir Singh opened the scoring. Chhetri added a second-half brace to secure three points and top spot in the table with eight points.

Tough match against Nepal

Nepal on the other hand, had an impressive start to the competition with wins over Maldives (1-0)  and Sri Lanka (3-2). However, Nepal lost to India. However, they earned a draw against Bangladesh to secure second spot in the table with seven points.

Nepal, which is ranked 61 places below India has been a tough opponent for India off late. India played two friendlies against the Himalayan country twice in early September. The first match ended in a 1-1 draw and the second one finished 2-1 in India’s favor. Since India has beaten them twice in the last three encounters, they will have a psychological advantage. Statistics will show that the Blue Tigers are the clear favourites.

India team news

India coach Igor stimac has multiple issues to address as Farukh Choudhary (ACL injury), Brandon Fernandes (quadriceps injury) and Subhashish Bose (red card suspension) have been ruled out of the final. Both Bose and Brandon were regular starters for India and Farukh has been influential off the bench.

Chinglensana Singh is an automatic replacement for Bose in the central defence. Either Sahal Abdul Samad or Anirudh thapa would come in for Brandon in the midfield. Sahal is a more likely choice as he is a more attack-minded player.

Midfielder Apuia had a brilliant game against Maldives, his range of passing and confidence with the ball have impressed everyone. The 20-year-old bossed the midfield and never shied away from putting in hard tackles. Thus, he is a sure starter in the final.

Suresh and Mohammad Yasir will be the other midfielders who will have slightly advanced roles. Chhetri has been the standout player for India with four goals in as many games in the competition, he will be supported by Manvir up front. 

Nepal don’t rely on individual brilliance rather they play more of a team game. The Himalayan nation defends pretty well as a unit. They are quick in their counter-attacks, which the Blue Tigers would have to be vary about. 

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