SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 TOTT: Thapa and Manvir the shining Indian lights in regional adventure
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Many teams performed really well in the competition, with a few terrific players inspiring some important victories for their sides.
The SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 turned out to be a really entertaining tournament which was full of surprises, and was eventually won by dark horses, the Maldives. For India, it might have been a bittersweet tournament, but few players definitely staked their claim for a regular spot in the national team.
Many teams performed really well in the competition, with a few terrific players inspiring some important victories for their teams. India had quite a few players who shone through, as well as the Maldives who won the competition on the basis of amazing performances from some of their individuals.
In this article, we round up the best players of the recently concluded SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and draw up a team of the tournament:
Pakistan's Hassan Bashir leads the attack alongside India's Manvir Singh
Goalkeeper: Mohamed Faisal (Maldives)
— SAFF Suzuki Cup (@SAFFSuzukiCup) September 15, 2018
Mohamed Faisal played the role of a “Guardian Angel” perfectly for Maldives throughout their topsy-turvy tournament and was the main reason they even got a chance to make it to the semis. Despite seeing his team fail on attack, Faisal kept his nerve and made five saves against the terrorizing Sri Lanka attack. He was excellent against India as well and did brilliantly to keep the scoreline down to 2-0.
Faisal also held his nerve in the knockout stages, making five stunning saves against Nepal in the semi-finals. Faisal ended up keeping two clean sheets in four games and even won the “Most Valuable Player” award for his incredible work in keeping Maldives alive in the tournament.
Right-Back: Hussain Yoosuf (Maldives)
The major reason for Maldives success in the SAFF Cup was their defensive solidarity and while their center-backs had a few bad outings, their full-backs were extremely strong throughout the tournament.
Hussain Yoosuf had to work hard to keep up with the stiff competition against him and because most opponents loved working through the wings, Yoosuf had to play cleverly to contain the attack. Yoosuf showed great energy to produce some great performances throughout the tournament and was especially excellent in the knockout rounds. He kept Ashique at bay during the final and completely neutralized that threat, helping Maldives frustrate India and snatch a famous win at the end.
Center-Back: Salam Ranjan Singh (India)
Salam Ranjan Singh proved why he is one of the rising top defenders in Indian Football right now with his assured performances in the SAFF Suzuki Cup. Singh made life very easy for Vishal Kaith, who really didn’t have to do much throughout the tournament because of the men ahead of him. Singh was an extremely calm and composed figure at the back, who sniffed out danger and cleared the ball at any sign of trouble. He might’ve seen the players around him crumble to pressure, but Singh was absolutely excellent defensively and his distribution was top class as well.
Singh’s impressive performances come as an encouraging sign for Stephen Constantine, who might be compelled to use him more in the center-back role from now on.
Center-Back: Topu Barman (Bangladesh)
Topu Barman led from the front for Bangladesh in their bittersweet SAFF Cup tournament and despite sitting in the heart oft heir defense, he influenced their game quite a lot. Barman proved to be a solid defender, who could not only contain the threat of the opposition but showed confidence going forward.
As a center-back, he scored two goals and ended as Bangladesh’s top scorer for the tournament. Barman was great in sniffing out danger and making clutch clearances and even helped Bangladesh get two clean-sheets in the tournament. He might’ve been unlucky at not qualifying for the semi-finals, but Barman’s solid showing definitely made him a fan-favourite in his home country.
Left-Back: Mohamed Samdooh (Maldives)
Mohamed Samdooh wasn’t even the starting left-back for Maldives when they kicked off their SAFF Cup campaign, but poor performances from his colleague Mohamed Majuthaaz forced Peter Segrt to bring him in against Nepal. Samdooh was excellent in the semi-finals, where he contained both Sunil Bal and Bimal Gharti Magar valiantly and maintained the clean-sheet for his side.
Samdooh was terrific in the semi-finals as well, where he kept the menacing Nikhil Poojary at bay and also provided some threat going forward. Samdooh’s terrific outing in the SAFF Cup could make that left-back position his own now and he deserves that accolade for working really hard to attain it.
Right-Winger: Bimal Gharti Magar (Nepal)
Bimal Gharti Magar came into the SAFF Suzuki Cup with a lot of weight on his shoulders, with his reputation preceding him to be Nepal’s biggest threat going forward. Magar definitely lived up to expectations, as he dazzled with his fantastic movement and skills in front of goal. The skillful Nepalese went onto score two goals in four games for his country and was unlucky not to get even more.
Magar was influential in securing the final win for Nepal against Bangladesh in the group's stages and had five shots on target in the loss against Maldives! Magar’s great showing in the tournament proved how vital he still is for Nepal, as he helped them play some wonderful football throughout.
Center Midfield: Anirudh Thapa (India)
Anirudh Thapa provided a composed and matured presence in the middle of the park
Anirudh Thapa picked up his excellent form from the Intercontinental Cup and was the spark India needed to perform really well in the SAFF Cup this year. Thapa was like this bundle of energy in midfield, as he always sought the ball and displayed his creativity with some great passes in almost every game. He was solid in midfield and always looked to retain control of the game, winning back many balls for India and helping them establish dominance in games.
Thapa showed a lot of maturity at the center of the park for India and the fact that he was even awarded the captain’s armband proves how much faith Stephen Constantine has in him.
- SAFF Cup Indian Player Ratings: Rai, Thapa and Poojary only Indian sparks amidst a colossal disaster
Center Midfield: Ibrahim Waheed Hassan (Maldives)
Ibrahim Waheed Hassan almost embodied everything good about Maldives at the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and was an ever-bearing presence in their midfield. Hassan had the role of breaking up plays and bullying the opposition midfielders, something which he did really well. Not only that, but he also showed great persistence going forward and scored a vital brace against Nepal to give Maldives their first win of the tournament.
Waheed was defensively solid and the steel Maldives needed to save their midfield from crumbling, and he used his strength to his advantage to be this emphatic figure in their midfield. Waheed was one of the finds of the tournament and got his reward with a winners medal in the end.
Left-Winger: Ashique Kuruniyan (India)
Ashique Kuruniyan was one of the most terrorizing attackers for India during the tournament, as he was an absolute menace on the wings and proved his amazing talent. Ashique’s electric movement on the flanks made life difficult for many defenders and he used his impressive dribbling abilities to often penetrate defenses easily. Ashique’s terrific crossing ability was also on show during the tournament, where he assisted two goals thanks to his inch-perfect crosses. He ended up scoring India’s first goal of the SAFF Cup and proved why he deserves more chances.
The blistering winger will be an asset for Constantine in the near future, with his impressive movement in the wings and crossing ability making him a really useful player for the Blue Tigers.
Striker: Hassan Bashir (Pakistan)
Hassan Bashir was inspirational in Pakistan's run to the semi-finals
Pakistan were heavy underdogs coming into the SAFF Suzuki Cup but exceeded their expectations by playing some stunning football and progressing into the semi-finals. One of the main reasons for their success was the brilliant work of their strikers, mainly from Hassan Bashir, who was a lethal finisher in front of goal.
Bashir scored pivotal goals against Nepal and Bhutan and operated really well in attack for Pakistan. He also produced a really good performance against India where he tested Kaith’s resolve multiple times but was unlucky not to score. But Bashir’s inspired performance helped give hope to Pakistan football fans as brighter things seem to be on their horizon.
Striker: Manvir Singh (India)
While Stephen Constantine opted to start with Sumit Passi over him at the start of the SAFF Suzuki Cup, the moment Manvir Singh came on in the first game, he looked in stunning form. Singh was an absolute terror for defenders throughout the tournament as he used his strength and close-control to bully defenders in every match.
He was really clinical in front of goal and scored three goals in the tournament to prove his potential. Manvir formed a great chemistry with Farukh Choudhary and linked well with the wingers to terrorize his opponents. Despite not being able to do anything in the final, Manvir had an excellent tournament in which he proved himself as a powerful striker who won the Golden Boot for his heroics throughout the tournament.
Honorable Mentions: Sunil Bal, Muhammed Ali, Ali Fasir.
Published: Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:22 PM IST