The All India Football Federation (AIFF) discovered late and cited tournament rules on Friday to state that India had reached the final of the Nehru Cup.
The Indian camp was in for a pleasant surprise when the physio carried the news that the team was already in the final. India, as per the tournament rules, had qualified for the final on the basis of the head-to-head record against Sri Lanka in the league stage where it defeated the latter 3-1.
The pre-match development had its impact on the Sri Lankans, who made their exit on a disappointing note with a 1-4 defeat.
Kyrgyzstan was a far better side and more motivated and scored through Anton Zemlianuhin, Ildar Amirov, Mirlan Murzaev and Rustem Usanov. The lone goal for Sri Lanka came from Chathura Maduranga.
It must be tough to motivate oneself when playing meaningless games and the Nehru Cup was faced with a situation where Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan met in an encounter that had no bearing on the tournament.
Before the kick-off on Friday, Sri Lanka knew it had no more role to play even if Kyrgyzstan was to lose the match. Sri Lanka had begun the match with three points against Kyrgyzstan’s one. The victory enabled Kyrgyzstan finish third and take home a prize money of $10,000.
Sri Lanka obviously was focused on winning the match, hoping for India to lose against Syria, and move up on goal difference. But everything changed following the communication from the AIFF. "This clarification is issued to clear confusion on the above issue. AIFF regrets the inconvenience caused," said the release.
India went through its preparation at a school in south Delhi with the training session attracting hundreds of fans. The match against Syria will provide an opportunity to the fringe players. "This is a good chance for them. We have some talented players on the bench," said coach Bob Houghton.
India will rest Baichung Bhutia and Sunil Chetri for the match. The starting line up will include Sushil Singh, Abhishek Yadav, Rahim Nabi, Mehrajudin Wadoo and Renedy Singh. "We won’t take the match lightly," assured coach Bob Houghton.
Saturday’s match: Syria vs. India