After a 3-1 win over the defending champions the Maldives on Wednesday, India advanced to the final of the SAFF Championship 2021 men’s football event.
In the 32nd minute, Indian forward Manvir Singh scored the game’s first goal, and just before halftime, the Maldives were awarded a penalty, which their captain Ali Ashfaq converted to tie the game.
Sunil Chhetri, the captain of the Blue Tigers, scored the game-winning goal, ensuring India’s place in the final.
Subhasish Bose, the finalists’ left-back, was already on a yellow card when he was sent off in the 93rd minute of the game after another foul.
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The seven-time winners were struggling early in the tournament after drawing their first two matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They required a win over Nepal in their third match to continue in the competition, and a win over the Maldives to guarantee a place in the final.
Since then, India has either won or been the runner-up in the event, having finished third in 2003.
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Furthermore, despite being 51 points below India in the FIFA ranking table at 158th, the defending champions have never been easy opponents for India in the regional competition.
“There is a familiar problem that is following us, and that is converting chances,” Indian coach Igor Stimac said of the team’s reliance on Chhetri. We can’t rely on just one player and must improve our goal-scoring confidence.”
He went on to say that they need to increase their scoring from the opportunities that we are providing. “It’s simple; if we implement it, games will become incredibly simple.” Otherwise, you’ll have to suffer till the very end, if not beyond.”
Pakistan was ruled ineligible to compete in the tournament when FIFA sanctioned the Pakistan Football Federation in April 2021.
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