Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 2 (IANS) Hosts India are expected to face a tough task when they lock horns with a rampaging Afghanistan in a high-voltage SAFF Championship final at the Trivandrum International Stadium here on Sunday.
Both teams have been unbeaten in the tournament. While Afghanistan have quite convincingly won all of their four matches, the Indians too have delivered when required and gathered three wins from three outings. The visitors have been on a scoring spree in the tournament which includes a 5-0 hammering of Sri Lanka in the semi-finals. They had a goal difference of +10 in the group stages.
India, on the other hand, edged past Maldives 3-2 in the other semi-final. The last time the two sides had met in the final of the SAFF Championship in 2013, it was Afghanistan who had emerged victorious (2-0). But Stephen Constantine and his men will be confident of turning the tables this time around.
With striker Robin Singh out with an injury, Constantine would hope that star forward Sunil Chhetri will be able to get the goals. He did it against Maldives, but then again, breaking the Afghanistan defence would be a lot tougher. Besides Chhetri, the coach would look up to players like Holicharan Narzary and Jeje Lalpekhlua to score for the hosts. We might just also get to see a magical moment from the wonderkid Lallianzuala Chhangte. The 18-year-old netted twice against Nepal and became the youngest Indian scorer, moving past the iconic Baichung Bhutia, who did it as a 19-year-old in 1995.
Another driving factor for the hosts will be the home crowd. The stadium has seen decent turnouts throughout the tournament and the attendance is expected to double for the final. However, to lift the trophy for the fourth time, the Indian defence will have to play out of their skins. Containing the likes of Masih Saighani, Ahmad Hatifie, and Hassan Amin will be no easy task. Then there are players like Khaibar Amani and Faysal Shayeseth, who have grabbed four goals each so far in the tourney.
The head to head record speaks in favour of India. Out of the six matches played so far between the two nations, India have won four, drawn one and lost one. The hosts would ideally want to have a sweet revenge for their 0-2 loss in Nepal two years ago, but stopping such a powerhouse, who have been scoring goals for fun would prove to be a tough challenge.