This will be the second meeting between the two sides in the final clash of the tournament.
India and Nepal are going to compete against each other in the final of the SAFF Championship 2021 on Saturday. The two teams finished first and second respectively in the round-robin stage to qualify for the upcoming fixture. While India started off haphazardly, they have picked up some momentum since then. Nepal, on the other hand, are going through a contrasting patch – after starting the tournament well, but losing some of their rhythm in the last two matches.
The Blue Tigers will be the favourites on-paper ahead of the final, but football is a game of surprises. Igor Stimac cannot afford for his players to become complacent at this point, especially after their win against Maldives. Overall, there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming final.
Here is the preview of the clash between India and Nepal in the SAFF Championship 2021 final:
India Vs Nepal: The Stakes
India came into the tournament as heavy favourites. They have traditionally dominated the competition and many thought they would breeze past everyone this year too. However, the bitterly disappointing start, which saw two draws in two opening fixtures, left the fans with a lot of questions. However, the Blue Tigers are finally showing their quality after defeating Nepal in the group stage meeting and subsequently overcoming Maldives. The upcoming game is a must-win for Stimac too, who needs to prepare his team for bigger challenges ahead.
Nepal emerged as strong contenders after winning their opening two games in the competition. However, a loss to India and a draw with Bangladesh have derailed their confidence, to an extent. The Gorkhalis will hope to catch India off-guard and create the biggest upset of the tournament. It will be a tall task for Nepal, but nothing is impossible.
India Vs Nepal: Team News
India will be without Brandon Fernandes who suffered an injury against Maldives. He could be replaced by Anirudh Thapa in the starting lineup for the final. The Blue Tigers will also have Stimac absent from the dugout, after receiving a red card during the Maldives game. Furthermore, Subhasish Bose will also be serving his suspension after receiving a second yellow in the dying stages against the hosts.
For Nepal, Anjan Bista is unlikely to feature. The rest of the team picks itself, without any fitness concerns. Coach Abdullah Almutairi will rely on Manish Dangi to find space and create some scoring opportunities.
India Vs Nepal: Probable Lineups
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Chinglensana Singh, Mandar Rao Dessai; Suresh Singh Wangjam, Anirudh Thapa, Apuia; Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh, Mohammad Yasir
Nepal: Kiran Chemjong (GK); Gautam Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Dinesh Rajbanshi, Sujal Shrestha; Ayush Ghalan, Tej Tamang, Rohit Chand, Bishal Rai; Nawayug Shrestha, Manish Dangi.
India Vs Nepal: Players to Watch
Sunil Chhetri (India)
Who else, really? Sunil Chhetri is the leading goalscorer for India at the tournament with four strikes to his name. Following a brace against Maldives, the Indian skipper reached 79 international goals, surpassing Brazilian legend Pele in the process. He will be the most obvious threat in the attacking third.
Stopping Sunil Chhetri will be by far the biggest priority for the Nepalese defenders. He scored a brilliant volley and a precise header in the last fixture, which justified his overall quality. The Bengaluru FC skipper is a threat in every aspect, as he can combine well with his attackers and is a deadly finisher himself.
Manish Dangi (Nepal)
One can expect Manish Dangi to start against India given the unavailability of Anjan Bista. The young forward scored the winning goal in the opening fixture against Maldives to help the team get three points. Manish also started the previous encounter between the two outfits and got a few opportunities to hurt the Blue Tigers.
The striker is fast and can be a nuisance in counter-attacking situations. A little composure in the final third and Dangi could be a tough operator to contain. Indian defenders must watch out for his movement, as he has a knack of finding space and getting into scoring positions.
Did You Know?
- India scored more than two goals for the first time under Igor Stimac when they won 3-1 against Maldives.
- Sunil Chhetri has scored seven goals in 11 appearances against Nepal so far in his career.
- The last time Nepal beat India was in the 2013 SAFF Championship group stages.
The India Vs Nepal match will take place at the National Stadium, Male on Saturday, 16 October at 8:30 PM IST. It will be shown LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport HD, while also being available for streaming on Discovery+ and Jio TV.