India's SAFF Cup campaign has been successful so far. Two wins out of two in their group mean that the young Blue Tigers will take on close rivals Pakistan in the Semifinal, of the South Asian competition.
The Blue Tigers entered the competition as title holders, having won the last edition in 2015. As a result, they were heavily expected to repeat their feat and once again reign supreme in South Asia.
The youngsters, under Stephen Constantine, started their campaign off on a brilliant note, defeating southern neighbours Sri Lanka by two goals to nil. Both the wingers on the day, Ashique Kuruniyan and Lallianzuala Chhangte putting their name on the scoresheet. Four days later, they repeated the feat by beating the Maldives by the same scoreline. Nikhil Poojary and Manvir Singh were the goalscorers.
However, now comes the tricky part, as the youngsters head into a dangerous territory. Failing to win from here on in will result in the reigning champions bowing out of the competition.
As a result, Constantine is expected to field a strong eleven to face a Pakistan side who have returned to the competition for the first time since 2013.
Stephen Constantine, along with the rest of India, rued the missed opportunity when the Indian U23 team was stopped from going to the Asian Games. However, they have yet another chance to prove this decision wrong as they try to make their way to the SAFF Cup final.
In doing so, they will have to defeat a spirited Pakistan side, who have returned to football after a long absence.
So far, Constantine has played somewhat different line-ups in both of India's matches. However, the Englishman is expected to send out his strongest eleven when they take on Pakistan.
India is once again expected to line-up in a 4-4-2 formation, with dangerous wingers Lallianzuala and Ashique Kuruniyan flanking the striking duo of Manvir Singh and Farukh. Anirudh Thapa is expected to play the role of a pivot in the midfield yet again. Moreover, Jerry Lalrinzuala's appearance at left back could once again push Subhasish Bose inside. \
India's wingers have been the main cause for concern for the opposition in this year's competition. Three of India's four goals have come courtesy to the wide-men.
India probable XI: Vishal Kaith; Jerry, Subhasish, Salam, Davinder; Ashique Kuruniyan, Germanpreet, Thapa, Lallianzuala; Manvir, Farukh.
Pakistan are returning to the SAFF Cup after a five-year absence. However, their recent results show that the young side is already back to their best.
The young Pakistani side has done well in the competition so far, winning two of their three group matches. They beat Nepal in their opening match by two goals to one, before suffering a setback against Bangladesh. Nonetheless, a three-nil thumping of Bhutan put Pakistan back on track.
Hassan Bashir has been in top form for the Men in Green, with the striker grabbing a goal and an assist in their previous match. Bashir is also the joint top scorer of the competition with two goals.
They will now face their close rivals India for the first time in five years and are expected to continue with the line-up that oversaw their biggest win in this year's competition.
Pakistan probable XI: Butt; Mohsin Ali, Rehman, Ahmed, Younas; Riaz, Qazi, Hussain, Khan; Bashir, Ali.
Who will reign supreme when the age-old rivals India and Pakistan come up against one another? Will India make their way to the final or will Pakistan overcome the Blues?
Do let us know in the comments below.Published 12 Sep 2018, 15:09 IST