India Will Play Big Game Against Kuwait.
SAFF CHAMPIONSHIP: Coach Stimac, prepare his wards for the big match against Kuwait.
India will face its toughest test yet at the SAFF Championship when it takes on Kuwait in the final Group-A contest at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Tuesday. Both teams are already into the semifinals after having won their opening two fixtures. But at stake is the position of the table-topper, for which India needs a win and nothing less. A draw will be enough for the visitors, for the sides are tied on goal-difference but Kuwait is ahead on goals scored. Kuwait may be ranked 143 in the world- 42 places below India-but that number is deceptive at best. The Rui Bento-coached outfit has been impressive this tournament and has looked every bit the side that notched up wins over Tajikistan, Philippines and the United Arab Emirates this year, all higher-ranked opponents.
A good measure of where India and Kuwait stand can be gauged by how they fared in their respective last matches. India made eight changes against Nepal and struggled, especially in the first half, before winning 2-0. Kuwait shuffled around nine of it's players versus Pakistan and still romped home 4-0. But India can draw strength from the fact that it has not conceded for eight straight games. It is also set to welcome head coach Igor Stimac back to the touchline after his one-match suspension for the red-card offence against Pakistan. "We made a lot of changes in the last game to make sure we have got everybody fit, ready and motivated", Stimac told AIFF, ahead of the Kuwait match.
" Against Nepal, we didn't execute the first half well as we didn't stick to the plan. "We weren't marking tightly and winning aerial duels. We changed a few things, and the second half worked to perfection. Some phenomenal moves and passing", the Croat added. India and Kuwait haven't met in recent times, so there isn't any experience to draw upon. The previous tie was in fact a friendly way back in 2010 in Abu Dhabi which the West Asians won by a massive 9-1 margin. The India of today would like to believe it's much better than that result. Tuesday is a chance to prove that to a new-age Indian audience.
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