The two sides faced each other in the last match of group stages with India winning it 2-0 but after that, Maldives coach Petar Segrt made five changes including three in the attacking front and that made a big impact, especially Ali Fasir, in beating Nepal 3-0 in the semifinal
India are confident of carrying on their fine form to retain the Saff Championship while Maldives will take inspiration from the semifinal as the two south Asian football powerhouses take on each other in the grand final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Saturday at 7pm.
This will be the first time in nine years where Maldives will be playing the final and the previous one was also the last time when the event was held in Dhaka. Maldives lost the final in a penalty shootout against the same opponents, for whom it was the fifth out of seven titles they won so far.
India, the only south Asian outfit to have qualified for the 2019 AFC Asia Cup, have shown the most consistency in the tournament with a hundred percent winning record with a group of only under-23 players in the squad. On the other hand Maldives has perhaps been the most inconsistent team but their latest performance against Nepal could be an inspiration.
The two sides faced each other in the last match of group stages with India winning it 2-0 but after that, Maldives coach Petar Segrt made five changes including three in the attacking front and that made a big impact, especially Ali Fasir, in beating Nepal 3-0 in the semifinal.
“They have some very good players. Some of the key players also didn’t play against us. We have full respect for them but we fear no one,” said India’s English coach Stephen Constantine during the pre-final press conference at the BFF House Friday.
A confident Constantine added, “It’s not the same team that we beat in the group stage. Plus, this is the final and you know anything can happen in the final. They will work hard, we will work hard. Hopefully we win.”
Petar Segrt termed his side as semi-professional when it was reminded to him about his opponents having only U-23 players. “We have a semi-professional team here against an U23 side because most of my players are working other jobs in the Maldives. They work eight hours and then they come to play. Don’t underestimate this U23 team (India) because their youth team defeated Argentina.”
The Croatia-born German coach added, “We had to come up with a different game against a very strong Nepal team in the semifinal. This is the second face we showed in the tournament. I hope we show that face tomorrow too. We will be different and only one result is important in the final and that is to win.”
Maldives were ousted by the same opponents in the semifinals of the last three editions and if they want to turn the results on their side they have to find a way to stop in-form India striker Manvir Singh, who showed great finishing skill while scoring a brace against a strong Pakistan defence in the semifinal.
What They Said
Petar Segrt, head coach, Maldives
Organisation is very good for us until now, very satisfied. What we have done in the last month is unbelievable. This is a big success that we are here in the final after nine years. We play against a big team in the final but 11 Maldives v 11 India is a chance and we want to take.
Akram Abdul Ghanee, captain, Maldives
We were struggling in the group stage, finally we made it into the final. This is going to be the biggest chance in nine years. Our team is well prepared for the final and we will fight for the country and the people.
Stephen Constantine, head coach, India
We have this about six and a half weeks we have been together. They have worked very hard and I’m very much pleased with the progress we have made. We came here only to win the tournament. I think we have played well enough and we deserved to be in the final.
It’s not the same teams. We beat them in the group stage but this is the final and you know anything can happen in the final. They will work hard, we will work hard. Hopefully we win.
Subashish Bosh, captain, India
We are trying to best to win the final. We prepared well and try to win the trophy.
India Head to head Maldives
96 Fifa ranking 150
16 Matches 16
12 Wins 2
2 Draws 2
34 Goals scored 12
India v Maldives, 7pm
The game will be held at BNS, Dhaka