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India looking for one final flourish

The task before coach Savio Mederia's men is essentially the same as at the start of the Saff Championships - beat Afghanistan. The stakes, however, are much higher.

sports Updated: Dec 10, 2011 23:08 IST
Rohit Bhaskar

The task before coach Savio Mederia's men is essentially the same as at the start of the Saff Championships - beat Afghanistan. The stakes, however, are much higher.

A 1-1 draw in their Group A opener, which was more a lucky escape than two points dropped, gave naysayers a chance to cast aspersions. The hosts, however, cleared all doubts with three emphatic wins on the trot, scoring 11 goals, conceding just one.

Now India face Afghanistan again in the final at JLN Stadium on Sunday, eager to make amends for that lapse and finish what they started.

Head coach Medeira, in his first tournament in charge, has handled his squad well and rotated the team to counter the demanding schedule, which will see them play their fifth match in eight days.

On the eve of the final, he was confident, but wary after a young and pacy Afghanistan side made their title aspirations known from the outset.

“We respect Afghanistan. This is their first entry into the final. Technically they are a very good side. They have some talented players, who play in Europe.

From the first match to the semi-finals, they have played consistently well," said Medeira who is one win away from winning this tournament as player and coach.

Sunil Chhetri flew in from Glasgow after a trial with Scottish giants Rangers hours before the opening match of the tournament, and a day before India kicked off. He quashed any talk of jet lag with a goal in his first match. His tournament tally stands at six goals..

Afghanistan coach Yousef Kargar admitted the threat Chhetri and strike partner Jeje Lalpekhlua pose.

“India are a very strong side. We are the underdogs. They have very good players and have home advantage," he said.

“But we are well prepared for the final tomorrow," he added, pointing to his own super striker Belal Arezou, who like Chhetri has scored six goals in the tournament.


India versus Afghanistan

Total matches: 13

India won: 10

Afghanistan won: 1

Draws: 2

Goals by India: 26

Goals by Afghanistan: 6

Result of most recent encounter: 1-1

Biggest margin of victory: India bt. Afghanistan, 4-0