The SAFF Championship preparation begins for the Indian men’s football team with two friendlies against neighboring country Nepal, the first of which will be played on 2nd September at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu.
The Indian Team’s preparations
The Blue tigers landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport on August 31st, after two weeks of rigorous training in Kolkata. The team also played two friendlies at the City of Joy – one against the IFA XI, and another against Mohammedan Sporting Club, winning both games by scorelines of 1-0 and 2-0, respectively.
Nepal will prove to be a much bigger test for the Blue Tigers who haven’t played a competitive match since the 1-1 draw with Afghanistan at the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Nepal has had no competitive action since the World Cup Qualifiers either and will be looking to gain some confidence after poor displays against Australia and Jordan in June.
Rain could play spoilsport on Thursday as torrential downpour has been ravaging the country in the past weeks, with the training grounds in poor conditions.
“I hope that we don’t suffer heavy rains during the matches so that we can play some exciting football,” Head Coach Igor Stimac averred in the pre-match press conference.
Key Indian Players
1) Brandon Fernandes
The Margao man will be pulling the strings for the Blue Tigers on Thursday, operating behind the likes of Manvir Singh and Sunil Chhetri. Brandon’s natural playmaking abilities and set pieces can prove to be the deciding factor in a game that promises to be played under harsh rainfall, resulting in tired legs and slower football.
2) Sunil Chhetri
Captain, leader, legend. The sheer gravity that the skipper brings to the pitch inspires each and every single one of his teammates to run those extra few steps, to take that half chance, to dive into that last gasp tackle. On a personal level, Sunil will look to turn things around after a lackluster campaign with Bengaluru FC at the AFC Cup.
3) Chinglensana Singh
Chinglensana ‘Sana’ Singh has quickly become one of the most promising prospects in Indian Football. However, it will be quite the task for the Manipuri defender to fill the boots of talismanic center-back and AIFF Footballer of the Year, Sandesh Jhingan who is in Croatia with his new club HNK Šibenik.
Key Nepali Players
1) Kiran Chemjong
The captain and the second-highest capped player in Nepali Football, Kiran Chemjong will be looking to lead by example from the last line of defense. His experience and abilities will be put to a serious test by the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Manvir Singh in the attacking third. Having played in India for Minerva, and subsequently RoundGlass Punjab FC, Kiran is not unfamiliar with facing Indian opposition.
2) Rohit Chand
The only Nepali footballer playing abroad, this holding midfielder plies his trade for Persija Jakarta, one of the most successful clubs in Indonesia. A stalwart in his position, Rohit will bring much-needed character and discipline to the Nepali midfield when the going gets tough.
3) Anjan Bista
Anjan Bista is the most potent attacking weapon in Nepal’s arsenal. The center-forward will be hungry for any opportunity that falls his way and press high up the pitch, making life difficult for Chinglensana Singh and co.
India – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Subhasish Bose, Chinglensana Singh Konsham, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri (C).
Nepal – Kiran Chemjong (GK) (C), Ananta Tamang, Dinesh Rajbanshi, Ranjit Dhimal, Rohit Chand, Bishal Rai, Arik Bista, Sunil Bal, Sanjok Rai, Anjan Bista, Nawayug Shrestha.
India is the clear favorite going into the game, however, with rain on the cards, a draw can be a likely outcome. The climate and the altitude will be a huge mental test for the Indians, and they will need to be ruthlessly accurate in their attacks against a foe that will operate in familiar conditions.
Venue – Dasharath Stadium, Tripureshwar, Kathmandu
Time – 17:15 IST
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