• Friday, Apr 26, 2019
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Dhaka awaits thrilling India-Pakistan encounter

  • Published at 09:08 pm September 11th, 2018
The Indian football team trains ahead of their semi-final against Pakistan. Md Manik

India defeated Pakistan on each occasion during the last three meetings and all of them finished with the identical score of 1-0

In south Asian football, India are far ahead of others in statistics and ranking but like in any other sport, an encounter with arch-rivals Pakistan always raises the stakes and expectations from both sides and a feisty contest can be expected. 

The second semi-final of the Saff Championship 2018 - a clash between these two sides - is expected to produce that sort of intensity at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.

The match will kick off at 7pm. 

India, who have won the title four times, are placed within the first 100 of the Fifa men’s team rankings and are far ahead of the other south Asian countries.

That gave them the confidence to send an U-23 team under the auspices of their long-term English coach Stephen Constantine with the mission of defending their Saff title.  

This young Indian troupe looked quite confident after two comfortable wins against Sri Lanka and Maldives in the group stage but they are likely to face a tougher test against a physically strong and experienced Pakistan side that didn’t look like one that just returned to the game after a three-year Fifa ban.

Indian team manager Venkatesh Shanmugam, who was present in the pre-match presser yesterday in the absence of Constantine, admitted the fact and said India and Pakistan are “serious rivals” and always offer a “difficult” encounter.  

On the other hand, Pakistan reached the semi-final after a 13-year gap, but the team consists of some Europe-based players and their presence has elevated their strength to a level that may provide a sterner test for their opponents. 

Pakistan’s Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira was eagerly looking forward to seeing his team giving a great show in the all-important match. 

The coach, who has the experience of coaching two African and one Caribbean national side, was hoping his team would storm through to the final for the first time in Saff history. 

 “Very excited to reach the semi-final. My team are preparing very well. I’m expecting a very good and exciting match against India. [Tomorrow] is the day,” said the 52-year old at BFF House on Tuesday, accompanied by the skipper Saddam Hossain.

Saddam, the hard-working midfielder, said they came here to “surprise” and his teammates are confident of carrying on their fine form ahead of the “vital match”, informing that more than half-a-dozen players in the squad have the experience of playing against India. 

The Indian outfit looked more organised in their last game, compared to their opening tie. They made as many as five changes, including Manvir Singh and Nikhil Poojari, which bolstered their attacking line-up.

Not to mention, Pakistan have the most number of European-based players among the seven participants, including Muhammad Ali and Hassan Bashir up front, who can seriously challenge the title holders. 

India defeated Pakistan on each occasion during the last three meetings and all of them finished with the identical score of 1-0. 

But the battle between the young Indian side and the experienced Pakistan side promises to be a goal-fest given the way the teams have set-up and that may be the only solace for local fans whose team was eliminated from the group stage.