Intercontinental Cup: India’s chances bright vs Kenya despite bleak weather
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Intercontinental Cup: India’s chances bright vs Kenya despite bleak weather

India start favourites to win the four-nation International Cup football tournament final against Kenya on Sunday, though heavy rain in Mumbai could render playing conditions poor.

football Updated: Jun 09, 2018 19:42 IST
Ankit Kumar Singh
Ankit Kumar Singh
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Sunil Chhetri,Indian football team,IND v KEN
India trounced Kenya 3-0 in the group stage of the Intercontinental Cup and will be keen to replicate that form in the final. (AP)

Sunil Chhetri’s Indian football team start as favourites against Kenya in the final of the Intercontinental Cup football on Sunday that could be marred by heavy monsoon rains that has thrown normal life out of gear in Mumbai.

India have organised the four-nation tournament as preparation for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup slated to be held in the UAE in January. And despite their 1-2 loss to New Zealand in the final round robin game after sealing their final berth, the hosts hold the upper hand over their African counterparts.

India drubbed Chinese Taipei 5-0 and trounced Kenya 3-0 and the loss to New Zealand came after coach Stephen Constantine made seven changes to the starting eleven.

Constantine said the team will be back to full strength in the final. It rained heavily on Saturday with more rain forecast for Sunday. Asked if the conditions would affect the team’s plans, he joked.

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“The players who can swim will get a chance tomorrow. Jokes apart, the weather is something we can’t control. I hope the ground condition improves. Whatever it is, we have to play according to the situation.”

He brushed aside the loss to New Zealand. “This type of tournament is not about streaks. It’s about end product and our ultimate aim is to win the tournament.”

Though India outplayed Kenya a few days ago, the Africans have showed fighting spirit. They were brilliant in their 2-1 win over New Zealand, and when it mattered, they thrashed Chinese Taipei 4-0 to secure a spot in the final.

All eyes will be focused again on India’s talismanic skipper, Chhetri. The 33-year-old has been in red hot form, scoring in each of the three matches. He followed his hat-trick against Taipei with a brace against Kenya and scored his sixth goal of the tournament against the All Whites.

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Chhetri also put out an emotional video message after India’s first match, urging fans to come and watch the national team play. Mumbai fans responded to the appeal and since then all tickets for India matches have been sold out.

India have shown plenty of depth in the squad with Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Pranay Halder all doing well in the midfield. And Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal provide experience in the defence. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, rested for the New Zealand game, will be also back.

For Kenya, strikers Ovella Ochieng and Pistone Mutamba hold the key as they have been in superb form.

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 19:00 IST