Focus on attackers as India face Kuwait in SAFF C’ship Final

India face Kuwait in SAFF C’ship Final

On the rare occasion Sunil Chhetri did not score, India, too, drew a blank. It isn’t a new story in Indian football but as the national team continues to ride on the back of strong defensive displays, the hosts will hope that other attackers will rise to the occasion when India take on Kuwait in the final of the South Asian Championship in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

Chhetri, at 38, continues to lead India from the front. The captain has scored five out of the seven goals India have managed so far in the competition, including the first-half strike when India faced Kuwait in the group stage. Udanta Singh and Naorem Mahesh are the two other players who’ve got their name on the score sheet but India know they’ll need more goal-scoring avenues if they wish to extend their unbeaten run at home and lift the regional title for the ninth time.

India have been miserly in defence during the tournament, conceding just one goal in four matches, and the defence will be further bolstered by the return of Sandesh Jhingan, who was suspended for the semifinal against Kuwait on Saturday.

Defensively, India did not miss him much and while the back line will face one of its toughest tests so far, the focus will be on the strikers, who lacked sharpness in the few opportunities they created against Lebanon in the semifinals.

India will also fret over Chhetri’s availability for the entire match after he played the full 120 minutes in the semifinals and left the field looking in slight discomfort. Assistant coach Mahesh Gawli, however, allayed any concerns over Chhetri’s fitness.

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