Lebanon vs India: Prediction, preview, predicted lineups, and more for SAFF Championship 2023 semi-final clash

Indian players traning ahead of their semi-final clash against Lebanon.
Indian players traning ahead of their semi-final clash against Lebanon. (Image Courtesy: AIFF Media)

A last-gasp equalizer from Kuwait in the final group-stage match demoted India to second in the standings in Group A of the SAFF Championship 2023. This means Igor Stimac's men will now face Lebanon in the semi-finals on Saturday, July 1, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.

Having scored more goals scored during the group stage, the Blue Wave finished ahead of the hosts after their 1-1 draw earlier in the week. The top spot in Group A was within the Blue Tigers' clutches for the majority of the game, having led 1-0 through a Sunil Chhetri strike right before the half-time whistle.

However, Anwar Ali unfortunately turned the ball into his own net in the additional minutes of the second half and restored parity for Kuwait. Both teams were notably down to 10 men by then.

India have recently faced Lebanon twice and will be well aware of their strengths. The two sides met in the group stage of the recently concluded Intercontinental Cup and settled for a goalless draw. The Blue Tigers then secured a convincing 2-0 win over the Cedars in the final.

Talking in the press conference ahead of Saturday's clash, Chhetri underlined:

"We know quite a lot about Lebanon as we've already played them twice. I'm sure they have the same feeling about us. They would also want a piece of us back because of what happened in the last two games."

Head coach Stimac will be absent on Saturday after receiving his second red card of the tournament in the last match. Assistant coach Mahesh Gawli will take over the reins of the national team and it remains to be seen how they will cope without their gaffer on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Lebanon have been on a relentless run in Group B, emerging victorious in all three of their clashes. They beat Bangladesh 2-0, Bhutan 4-1, and Maldives 1-0 to become the only team to hold a perfect record in this year's tournament.

Gawli stressed during the press conference that Hassan Maatouk will be a threat for India's backline. Maatouk, who is also Lebanon's captain, notably scored the winner via a free-kick against Maldives last time out.

Lebanon vs India: Predicted lineup for the SAFF Championship 2023 semi-final

Except for Sandesh Jhingan, who collected his second yellow card of the tournament in the last game and is suspended, India have a full-strength squad available.

For Lebanon, Jihad Ayoub and Soony Saad have left the team to serve their club commitments. Mohamad Sadek and Ali Shaitou have been called up as replacements.

India XI: Amrinder Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, Akash Mishra; Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad; Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri.

Lebanon XI: Ali Sabeh (GK), Hussein Zein, Mohammad El Hayek, Jihad Ayoub, Hassan Saad, Walid Chouar, Ali Tneich, Zein Abidine Farran, Hassan Maatouk, Nader Matar, Karim Darwich.

Lebanon vs India: Prediction for the SAFF Championship 2023 semi-final

Past record, home advantage at Sree Kanteerava, and an in-form Sunil Chhetri: all of these point to India being the obvious favorites against Lebanon. However, as pointed out by Chhetri in the presser, Hassan Maatouk and Co. will have learned from their previous results against the Blue Tigers.

After the high-intensity clash against Kuwait, what level the hosts will be able to perform at in this semi-final remains an important. Additionally, the absence of Jhingan will also hurt the stability of their backline.

However, we'll back Igor Stimac's men to just about edge this contest to make the SAFF Championship 2023 final.

Prediction: Lebanon 1-2 India.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman
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