India are the only team yet to face defeat in the competition.
The Indian football team finally picked up their first win of the SAFF Championship against Nepal. It wasn’t the most dominant performance, but the Blue Tigers definitely strengthened their chances to qualify for the final. Igor Stimac’s side just need to maintain their winning momentum to do so. But, India next face hosts Maldives – a team themselves determined to go all the way in the competition.
Indeed, Maldives just need one more point to reach the final. They’ll have the home support to galvanize their chances to do so. The Blue Tigers will be playing this one under a lot of pressure and will have to produce a special performance.
India Vs Maldives: The Stakes
India are yet to hit top gear in the SAFF Championship and are playing nowhere near their best. While they did pull off a gritty win over Nepal, Stimac knows his side must perform better to oust the hosts. This includes being much more decisive in attack and controlling the game for its entirety.
The SAFF Championship remains the closest Stimac has yet come to winning silverware for India. The Blue Tigers risk losing their position as ‘the best in South Asia’ if they fail to make the final. Another win can further reduce the pressure on the Croatian.
But, another underwhelming performance akin to that of the first two games will further alienate the Indian football fans against the current regime.
Maldives have been in impressive form in the SAFF Championship, having won their last two games and only conceded one goal in three outings. Yet, they did lose to Nepal – who in turn lost to India recently. Going into the final matchday in second place on the points table, being unable to qualify for the final will be quite disappointing for them.
For Maldives, even a draw against India can seal a spot in the finale. A loss will mean a case of ‘so close, yet so far.’ They’ll definitely opt for the former. The Red Snappers have winning momentum and home advantage to support their cause.
Realizing how shaky the current form of India is, Maldives will definitely take the fight to Stimac’s men and fancy themselves to come away with a positive result.
India Vs Maldives: Team News
Igor Stimac’s side came out from the Nepal win without any suspensions, however, Farukh Chowdhary has suffered a bad injury that has ruled him out of the tournament. Barring the Jamshedpur FC forward, Stimac will have a fully fit squad to choose from.
Maldives will be sweating on the fitness of their first-choice goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal, who had to be substituted against Sri Lanka.
India Vs Maldives: Probable Lineups
India XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Subasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai, Lalengmawia, Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes, Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.
Maldives XI: Mohamed Shafeeu (GK), Hussain Yoosuf, Ali Samooh, Akram Ghanee, Haisham Hassan, Hussain Nihaan, Aisam Ibrahim, Ibrahim Mahudhee, Ali Fasir, Hamza Mohamed, Ali Ashfaq.
Players to Watch
Brandon Fernandes (India)
So far, Maldives have kept two clean-sheets from their three games in the SAFF Championship. They’re defensively really well setup and a hard nut to crack. If India are to break their spirit, they’ll need something special in attack. Brandon Fernandes, arguably the team’s most creative player, has to turn up in this one.
Fernandes’ clever crosses, slick passes into the final third will be pivotal to disrupt Maldives’ defensive shape. If he’s able to send in enough accurate passes into the box, Brandon should ensure goalscoring chances for India and significantly improve their chances of scoring multiple goals.
Ali Ashfaq (Maldives)
Out of Maldives’ three goals scored in the SAFF Championship so far, striker Ali Ashfaq has scored two. The Red Snappers’ all-time top scorer has a similar stature as that of Sunil Chhetri for the Indian national team. He’s their leader and knight in shining armour in attack, despite his age.
The 36-year-old striker’s clever movement and ruthless finishing ability make him a daunting prospect to defend against. Maldives will, predictably, look to feed Ashfaq by delivering promising passes to him in attack. Unless India are able to cut that out, the experienced striker with relish his chances and torment them with this clinical style.
Did You Know?
- India have won 14 games in their 20 meetings against Maldives, only losing four times and drawing twice.
- But, Maldives defeated the Blue Tigers in their last meeting in the 2018 SAFF Championship final!
- Manvir Singh, the top scorer of the 2018 SAFF Championship, scored in the group game against Maldives in the last edition.
- Sunil Chhetri also has a prolific record against the Red Snappers, having scored six goals in five appearances against them.
India Vs Maldives: Telecast
The game will take kick-off at the National Stadium, Male on Wednesday, 13 October at 9:30 PM IST. It will be telecast live on Eurosport and Eurosport HD, as well as being available to stream on Jio TV and Discovery+.