SAFF Championship 2021 guide to opposition: India vs Maldives

Maldives are the 2018 SAFF Championship winners. (Image: SAFF)
Maldives are the 2018 SAFF Championship winners. (Image: SAFF)

India take on Maldives on the final day of the SAFF Championship 2021 league stage. While the Blue Tigers need a win to leapfrog second-placed Nepal to sneak into the final, a draw will be enough for Maldives to enter the SAFF Championship 2021 final.

While everybody expected India to be the dominant side in the competition, especially with a robust football league system and higher player wages, it has been the hosts, Maldives, who have been the stronger team so far.

Maldives SAFF Championship 2021 Form

Maldives currently sit at the top of the SAFF Championship 2021 standings with 6 points from 3 matches, equal on points with Nepal, but the hosts prevail on a solitary difference in goal difference between the two teams.

Ali Suzain's side started their SAFF Championship 2021 campaign with a disappointing defeat to Nepal in front of their home fans. Nepal cruised to a 1-0 win against Maldives, courtesy of a second-half strike from Manish Dangi.

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Maldives, then went on to register consecutive wins against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their next two games to reach the top of the league standings. A terrific overhead kick from Hamza Mohammed was followed by a penalty from veteran Ali Ashfaq awarded Maldives, a comfortable 2-0 win over Bangladesh in their second game of the 2021 SAFF Championship.

The game against Sri Lanka was a much cagier one. The two teams were engrossed mostly in a midfield battle before the hosts took the lead through sheer individual brilliance from the ever-reliable Ali Ashfaq to run out 1-0 winners.

Maldives against India in previous meetings

Maldives have a dismal record when it comes to head-to-head statistics against the Indian football team. The two teams first met at the South Asian Federation Games back in 1987 where India ran out comfortable 5-0 winners.

Since then, the two sides have met on 20 occasions with India emerging winners on 14 occasions, while the Maldives have notched up just 4 wins against the Blue Tigers. Only 2 games between the two teams have ended up as draws.

It is also to be noted that Maldives emerged as 2-1 winners in the last meeting between the two sides in the SAFF Championship 2018 final, which also led the Red Snappers to their second SAFF Championship title.

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Maldives SAFF Championship 2021 Head Coach

52-year-old former Valencia player Ali Suzain currently manages the Maldives football team. Suzain's best time as a manager came at Club Victory and Club Maziya in Maldives. He has won the Cup Winner's Cup, Male League, Dhivehi League, President's Cup and the FA Cup with Victory as an assistant and head coach.

Suzain has led Maziya to the Dhivehi Premier League, President's Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield as the Head Coach as well. His impressive domestic tenure resulted in the Maldives FA appointing him as the national team's head coach in early 2021.

Ali Ashfaq is the highest goal-scorer of Maldives. (Image: Maldives FA)
Ali Ashfaq is the highest goal-scorer of Maldives. (Image: Maldives FA)

Maldives SAFF Championship 2021 Key Players

The term 'Maldives Football' is synonymous with Ali Ashfaq. What Sunil Chhetri has been to India over the years, Ashfaq has been to Maldives. The veteran striker is the nation's top scorer with 55 goals in 85 matches.

Ashfaq is also the current SAFF Championship 2021 joint highest scorer with Sunil Chhetri with 2 goals in 3 matches.

Other key names on the Maldives roster include Hamza Mohammed on the wing, and Ali Fasir and Akram Abdul Ghanee in midfield.

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Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule
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