What Stephen Constantine’s senior team couldn’t do six Januarys ago, Sukwinder Singh’s bunch of youngsters did. In front of a hostile, sold out crowd at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Friday, the India U-23s beat Bangladesh’s senior team 1-0 to enter the final of the SAFF Cup.
Sunday’s final thus will be a repeat of the last edition, in 2007, when India and the Maldives played. The Maldives, who have also brought their senior side, are the defending champions and in the day’s first semi-final, thrashed Sri Lanka 5-1.
In the 2003 SAFF Cup, the India senior team lost 1-2 to Bangladesh in the semi-final. A collective show ensured there wouldn’t be a repeat.
Skipper Sushil Singh got his first goal of the tournament after India won a free-kick. From what seemed a well-rehearsed move, Sushil fired a right-foot grounder after defender Robert Lalthlamuana, known for ferocious left-footers, tapped it square instead catching Bangladesh by surprise.
“We didn’t let them (Bangladesh) play. I had said that we would produce our best show and the boys didn’t let me down. They followed every instruction to the letter,” Sukhwinder said.
“I have been asked whether we are serious about this tournament having got our under-23 team. And I told everyone hum kissi se kum nahin (we aren’t behind anyone),” he said.