Having notched up a morale-boosting semifinal victory against Maldives, defending champion India will try to maintain its supremacy in the SAFF football championship when it takes on a tough Afghanistan in the summit clash here on Wednesday.
On paper, Afghanistan is a superior side with a FIFA ranking of 139 to India’s 145 as well as seven of its first XI footballers playing in the lower tier leagues of the United States and Germany.
Medio Mustafa Azadzoy and defender Mustafa Hadid play in the German league while forward Mohammed Yusuf has played in the US.
For Sunil Chhetri and his team, winning the SAFF championship would be a thankless affair. India has won the trophy six times in the first nine editions having failed to reach the semifinals only once.
However, it has a solid Afghanistan team as an opposition, which was thrashed 0-4 in the final of the last edition held in New Delhi.
“We definitely want to take revenge on this India team as we felt that were hard done by the referee (Singaporean Sukhbir Singh) during the last edition. We are a far superior side than India, technically and physically,” Afghanistan’s assistant coach Ali Jawad Attaii said through his interpreter — team captain Fakhruddin Amiri, who incidentally plays for I-League side Mumbai FC.
The return of captain Sunil Chhetri, who is now a couple of goals shy of being India’s highest scorer in international circuit will be a shot in the arm for the Dutch coach, who has preferred playing with a single striker employing a 4-5-1 formation rather than the usual 4-4-2.
India to host 2015 SAFF Cup
Meanwhile, India will host the 2015 tournament after a decision at the Executive Committee meeting of the South Asian body here on Tuesday. The meeting did not finalise the host city for the tournament, but said it will be held in either New Delhi or Kerala.