Kuwait coach Rui Fernando anticipates "difficult" SAFF Championship 2023 final regardless of opponent

Kuwait became the first team to enter the SAFF Championship 2023 final with a win over Bangladesh. [Credits: AIFF]
Kuwait became the first team to enter the SAFF Championship 2023 final with a win over Bangladesh. [Credits: AIFF]

Kuwait head coach Rui Fernando believes a tough outing awaits his side in the SAFF Championship 2023 final on Tuesday, July 4.

The Blue Wave qualified for the final of the competition following a 1-0 win (after extra-time) over Bangladesh in the first semifinal on Saturday (July 1). Abdullah Albloushi scored the only goal of the contest in the final minute of the first half of extra-time.

Kuwait will now face either India or Lebanon in the final of the SAFF Championship 2023. In a press conference after his team's win over Bangladesh, Sportskeeda asked Fernando who he would prefer to face in the final, to which he replied:

"I like football. I was a football player before and I respect [both teams]. For me, the team needs to justify making the final. I know it's difficult. If I play against India, difficult. If I play against Lebanon, difficult. It's one final, one game."

The Blue Wave were notably expected to ease past Bangladesh in the semifinals. However, the Red and Gold ensured they didn't go down without a fight, creating some of the game's best opportunities to score before Albloushi's winner.

Reflecing on the performance, Fernando said:

"Difficult game, [our performance levels] were down. We didn't play today - that's the truth. I need to face it when we win and when my team don't well. Today, we didn't have energy. The weather is difficult and [it's] a lot of work. But I cannot accept this performance."

Kuwait are yet to face Lebanon at the SAFF Championship 2023, but drew 1-1 with India

Kuwait and India were the favorites to qualify from Group A of the SAFF Championship 2023. The Blue Wave ultimately pipped the Blue Tigers on goals scored after they both finished on seven points.

The two teams met in their final group-stage match, a game that decided who finished atop the table. India took the lead through Sunil Chhetri's half-volley in first-half stoppage time.

A heated affair which saw Indian coach Igor Stimac and forward Rahim Ali, as well as Kuwait's Hamad Al Qallaf receive their marching orders went south for the hosts late on. Rui Fernando's men equalized in the second minute of injury-time via an own-goal from Anwar Ali.

Lebanon, meanwhile, were drawn in Group B and hence, did not face Kuwait in the SAFF Championship 2023. The Cedars finished atop their group after winning all three of their matches against Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman
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