India vs Afghanistan SAFF Cup Final: Preview, TV channel info, Team News and Prediction
Hosts India take on defending champions Afghanistan in the 2015 SAFF Suzuki Cup Final at Trivandrum's International Stadium on Sunday evening. India will look to avenge the 2-0 loss inflicted on them by the Afghans in 2013 edition of the tournament when they lock horns with the Lions of Khorasan in yet another SAFF Cup Final, this time on home soil.
You can follow our live coverage here.
Afghanistan come into the game as favourites after seeing their footballing fortunes turn for the good in the last few years and start the game sixteen places ahead of India in the FIFA rankings, sitting in the 150th position. However, India have enjoyed the upper hand in games against Afghanistan and have lost just once in seven encounters played between the two sides.
The only defeat came in the 2013 SAFF Cup Final where the Afghans registered a 2-0 win to pip India to the SAFF Cup crown.
Playing on home soil though, India will be looking to clinch their seventh SAFF Cup title against all odds and thereby launch a new era in Indian Football.
Kick-off Time, Venue and Live Telecast
Venue – Trivandrum International Stadium
Time – 6:30 PM IST, Sunday
Live Telecast – Star Sports 4 & HD 4
India have been absolutely great going forward and completely dominated the Maldives defenders in their 3-2 semi-final win. But Stephan Constantine will be worried about the team's defensive performance as India's back four looked completely out of sorts against Maldives who almost made India pay despite being second best for most of the game.
Facing the high-scoring Afghans, India will have to tighten up their defence. Constantine could go for a slightly defensive approach in this game and play Pronoy Halder in midfield alongside Rowlin Borges which would see Eugenson Lyngdoh either drop out of the team or take up a more advanced role.
The performance of the two wingers Bikash Jairu and Halicharan Narzary was particularly impressive against Maldives and the English Coach would opt to retain them in the starting eleven to give more bite to the Indian attack. Jeje is expected to spearhead the attack in the absence of Robin Singh whose physicality might be missed by India in this game.
Afghanistan have been in sublime form in the SAFF Cup so far, scoring sixteen goals and letting in just one. Head Coach Peter Segrt is expected to go with the same attacking 4-3-3 line-up which has been highly successful for him in the competition so far. Skipper Faisal Shayesteh will play a vital role on the right side of midfield and will look to feed the Tournament top scorer Khaibar Amani from time to time.
Almost 75 percent of the Afghan players play in Europe which goes to show the calibre in the team.
Likely Starting XI for India (4-2-3-1) – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Augustine Fernandes, Arnab Mondal, Narayan Das, Pronoy Halder, Rowlin Borges, Halicharan Narzary, Sunil Chhetri, Bikash Jairu, Jeje Lalpekhlua
Likely Starting XI Afghanistan (4-3-3) - OvaysAzizi; Hassan Amin, Sayed Mohammad Hashemi Masih Saighani, Mustafa Hadid; Abassin Alikhil, Kanischka Taher, Faysal Shayesteh; Norlla Amiri, Khaibar Amani, Omid Popalzay
Jeje Lalpekhlua vs Sayed Mohammad Hashemi
India’s hero in the semi-finals, Jeje Lalpekhlua is in fine goal scoring form. Adding to his six goals in the ISL, Jeje scored twice in the semi-finals win over Maldives. Jeje hardly needs a second invitation to score these days and is a live wire in the box.
Hashemi who has been a rock in the Afghan defence will have to keep an eye on Jeje's movement in the box and not allow the Mohun Bagan striker any space inside the box. It is expected to be a tight game and the battle between Jeje and Hashemi could decide this encounter.
Khaibar Amani vs Arnab Mondal
Khaibar Amani is the top scorer in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015 with four goals so far in the competition. India will find it very difficult to win the game if Amani gets on song in the game. Arnab Mondal is the leader in that Indian defence and will have to lead by example by keeping Amani quiet.
Mondal was found wanting in the last few games and will need to get his act together against Afghanistan. If India can stop Amani, they will have a great chance to upset the Afghans playing on home turf. And the responsibility of forging a cohesive defensive unit falls with Arnab Mondal who will have a major role to play today.
Many are expecting Afghanistan to beat India today, but home advantage coupled with the confidence of four straight wins in a row will see a very different India take to the field. We might be set for yet another landmark day in Indian Football as India will finally show signs of coming of age and edge Afghanistan to lift the SAFF Suzuki Cup.
India 2-1 Afghanistan