Dasrath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal
August 10, 2011, 15:30 IST
India take on arch-rival Pakistan in the final of the first ever U16 SAFF Cup. Pakistan had defeated India 1-0 in the opening game of the tournament but India will be buoyed by their gritty win over hosts Nepal in the semi-final.
The Pakistan U16 team has been in unstoppable form in SAFF Cup. They started off with a 1-0 win over India and followed it up with a 6-0 demolition of Maldives. They faced off against Bangladesh in the semi-final and looked to have met their match finally. The pitch was muddy due to pre-match rains and it helped the Bangladeshi players, who were accustomed to these conditions. Pakistan dominated the proceedings in first half but were let down by poor finishing from Mohammad Zeeshan. Mansoor Khan showed impressive ball distribution, setting up numerous chances for Zeeshan.
In the second half, both teams cancelled each other out as the match seemed destined to be heading towards a penalty shoot-out. Mansoor Khan, Pakistan’s best player on the pitch, deservedly scored in the 89th minute with a delightful chip from 25 yards out to give Pakistan a 1-0 lead. A minute later Sher Ali beautifully dribbled past two Bangla defenders and followed it up with a precise finish to hand Pakistan a 2-0 win.
Pakistan has scored the highest number of goals in the tournament so far, nine, and is yet to concede. Mansoor Khan has been in outstanding form and has scored two goals so far. Winger Sher Ali has been another top performer, scoring three goals. Muhammad Bilal is the current top scorer in SAFF Cup, thanks to his four goals against Maldives but he will miss the final due to back to back yellow cards.. The Pakistanis will start this match as favorites, having already beaten India once.
Key Players – Mansoor Khan, Sher Ali, Zeeshan
Supratim Bhattacharya in action against Nepal
India didn’t perform as well as they could have in the semi-final clash against Nepal. Despite having a physical advantage, Indian players seemed to struggle with the speed and movement of Nepali players. Backed by a vocal local crowd, Nepal took the lead in first half and defended stubbornly for rest of the match. Indian strikers, Daniel and Laldanta, combined well upfront but were unable to apply the finishing touches. Raja Rawat followed up his brilliant performance against Maldives with another good showing in this match.
Indian defence was very shaky in the semi-final and captain Sajid failed to live up to his form from the group league. Myron Mendes was too attacking at times and left acres of open space in defence. India’s top performer against Nepal was goalkeeper Supratim Bhattacharya. Supratim made as many as five crucial saves during the 90 minutes, and then saved two penalties during the tie-breaker. His performances are not surprising in a way; after all he is a relative of Atanu Bhattacharya – former India #1 and member of the Asian All Stars team during 1980s.
Team India coach Thomas Joseph praised his boys after the win in the semi-final, but he knows his team needs to improve a lot to defeat Pakistan in the final. Against Nepal, Indian players resorted to long ball tactics when they failed to break the opponent defence – a tactic that will not work against physically dominant Pakistani players.
Key Players – Raja Rawat, Laldanta Sanga, Myron Mendes, Daniel
There is a chance that it might rain before the match starts. If it rains, India will start the match one step ahead, otherwise it will be a tough match for Indian colts.
India 1-0 Pakistan
(For videos and pictures, visit www.goalnepal.com)