Recent Title Wins Will Boost Blue Tigers Confidence.

SAFF CHAMPIONSHIP: Indian Football is on a rise. The style of play have worked well for the team.

Jul 6, 2023 - 22:53
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Recent Title Wins Will Boost Blue Tigers Confidence.
Indian Football Team.

Late on Tuesday night, after India's SAFF Championship triumph here, Igor Stimac was brusque in terming the victory as a not-so-important milestone in India's journey towards the AFC Asian Cup. There is some merit in it, for the marquee continental competition is more than six months away and India, over the coming months, will test itself in two better-quality four-nation events - King's Cup, Thailand and Merdeka Tournament, Malaysia. It may also be Stimac's way of not letting his players get ahead of themselves. But the fortnight was not without gains for India. The campaign- along with the Intercontinental Cup success in Bhubaneswar-has helped assemble a settled squad, develop a progressive style of play and instil a never-say-die attitude. 

"When we joined the camp ahead of the Intercontinental Cup, we were a bit jittery because of the long year we had had, " Captain Sunil Chhetri had said before the SAFF Championship semifinal against Lebanon. "It took us about a week, and after that we were enjoying the camp. Now, after the one-and-half months, the combinations, the camaraderie, the brotherhood is at the peak. Having done all the hard work, we don't want to let it go". This cohesiveness could be seen across the pitch as well. In defence, India conceded just twice in nine matches across two tournaments. Five of these games came against solid West Asian opponents in Kuwait and Lebanon. 

Under the guidance of the experienced trio of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, both goalkeepers and Sandesh Jhingan, the likes of Anwar Ali, Centre-back, Nikhil Poojary and Akash Mishra, both fullbacks prospered. In attack, even though Chhetri continues to do the bulk of the creating and scoring, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad and Naorem Mahesh showed signs of coming to the party. And the spirit that bound the whole side evident in the way India bounced back in the final after falling behind and losing Anwar to an injury. Instead of slipping into a defensive shell, the hosts took the game to Kuwait and equalised through a wonderfully worked field goal. 

"We didn't give up even after being a goal down, even though that was our weakest moment, " Gurpreet said. "Showing resilience, being creative and scoring a fantastic goal. All credit to the boys". The physical fitness of the side also stood out, and for inspiration, it didn't need to look beyond the 38-year-old Chhetri, who displayed childlike enthusiasm in completing two draining 120-minute contests in a four-day window. " The fitness levels were so high and it was wonderful to keep the consistency of not conceding, "said Mahesh Gawli, who deputised admirably well for Stimac in both the semifinals and final. " The country will be proud of these boys".

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