The Indian national team started the SAFF Championship as favourites mainly due to their rankings and also past record in the tournament. But they have not had a great tournament till now in the Maldives. The Blue Tigers kickstarted their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh followed by a horrible 0-0 draw against Sri Lanka.
However, they came back in the last game against Nepal, winning 1-0 courtesy of an 82nd minute Sunil Chhetri goal. it was a little better performance from the Indian team in comparison to their last two games. But now they will face the Maldives in their final group stage clash at the SAFF Championship and it is a do or die contest for both sides, especially for India as they are below the hosts in the points table. India need a win to go through to the finals, while the Maldives will go through even with a draw.
In contrast to popular opinion, India coach Igor Stimac is happy with how his team has performed in the last three matches at this tournament as he is looking forward to this one. He highlights how it is easier for the Maldives to just draw and go through but his team needs to win. Hence he promises that his team will play the game with the intention of will right from the first minute.
Generally, I’m quite happy with the performances in the last three games. Looking at the way we played; possession, shots and everything else, the team did the best they could; after such a short preparation. But, most importantly, we only conceded two shots (on target) in these three games. One of these shots was a goal. So our goalkeeper was not busy at all in these three games. We dominated all three, which we insist from our players,” he added.
Stimac also highlighted how scoring has been an issue for us. He feels that this issue is not created now but is going through a long time as India’s major share of goals is dependant on Sunil Chhetri. Lastly he shares how the country needs more forwards like Chhetri to share the goalscoring burden.
“But, obviously, there’s the same old problem following us; scoring. It’s been there for many years. It will probably stay with us for a while until we get out and produce a few more good strikers like Sunil Chhetri. We can’t be a team that depends only on one player to score goals. We need to be more confident in front of goal and have more players without (who don’t) fear the box,” Stimac explained.