August 25, 2012; Kick-Off- 7PM IST
Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi
India and Maldives have shared a healthy rivalry in South Asia over the past decade. There are startling differences between two countries but the tiny island nation has proved to be a thorn on India’s side multiple times in past and has performed consistently in SAFF Cup. India, on the other hand, will try to maintain the winning momentum they gained from the first match.
Team News And Tactical Brief
The Istvan Urbanyi coached side’s recent form has been patchy as they have lost three out of last five matches. However, they will be boosted by the fact that they made a solid start to the Nehru Cup campaign by beating Nepal 2-1. Just like India, the Red Snappers had a good first match as goals from Abdulla Asadulla and Ismail Easa in each half saw them race to a 2-0 lead before a late consolation goal changed the score-line for Nepal. The talismanic Ali Ashfaq was in good form as well as he played an important part in the first goal.
Maldives is likely to retain their 3-5-2 formation which pairs Ashfaq with Abdulla Asadulla in attack. The experienced Mohamad Imran is likely to start in goal with Akram Ghani marshalling the central defence. Maldives attacking movement heavily relies on counter-attack and wing-play with the two wing backs playing an important role. Ahmed Shafiu had a solid game against Nepal and his darting runs along the touch-line will be one of the biggest sources of danger for Indian full-backs. In midfield Mohammad Arif is the main source of creativity with his passing range and he is likely to have an interesting duel with Mehtab Hussain.
In the end of it all, Captain Ali Ashfaq will be the most important player for Maldives. Ashfaq can score brilliant goals and assist them as well (as his 6 assists in SAFF Cup 2008 would attest). He had an extremely ordinary match when Maldives faced India the last time and he will be looking erase that memory.
Fitness will be a big concern for Maldives. Even against Nepal a number of players were seen suffering from cramps as the match wore on. Their pre-tournament preparation was minimalistic and they played their first match a day after India, which will make them more fatigued.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Mohamed Imran(GK); Mohammad Rasheed, Akram Abdul Ghani, Mohamed Sifan; Shafiu Ahmed, Rilwan Waheed, Mohamed Umair, Mohamed Arif, Ashadh Ali; Ali Ashfaq, Abdulla Asadhulla
The Blue Tigers started off the new era with an encouraging 2-1 win over Syria though the fans didn’t get enough glimpses of the new style that was being talked about. In all fairness the conditions were not at all suited to play passing football and the change in tactics to suit conditions was in itself an encouraging development.
For India, a number of players had a good game against Syria. Sunil Chhetri once again came up trumps for the national team as his goal just before half-time demoralized opponents. Two veteran Dempo wingers – Clifford Miranda and Anthony Perreira also had great games providing an assist and scoring respectively. Subrata Pal was back in goal for India after missing most of last season due to injury and he made some crucial saves while Syed Rahim Nabi shook off his AFC Challenge Cup form to dish out an almost perfect display.
Wim Koevermans is unlikely to change the winning combination from first match, hence the same starting formation and line-up can be expected. Subrata Pal will start in goal with Nirmal Chhetri, Raju Gaikwad, Gourmangi Singh and Nabi lining up in four man defence. The Indian formation against Syria was roughly a 4-5-1 which became a 4-2-3-1 when going on attacks and changed into more of a 5-4-1 when defending with Mehtab Hussain dropping deeper. Sunil Chhetri scored 2 goals when India faced Maldives last year in SAFF Cup final. The Sporting Lisbon B team striker will be looking to improve his goal tally in Nehru Cup 2012.
Youngster Alwyn George didn’t make an appearance against Syria as conditions didn’t suit his style of play. He may be brought on as a substitute against Maldives if the need arises. India wouldn’t have too many concerns after their first match though Sanju Pradhan’s crosses were a big letdown. Subrata Pal and Nirmal Chhetri picked up yellow cards in last match and need to be careful about bookings.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Subrata Pal(GK); Nirmal Chhetri, Raju Gaikwad, Gourmangi, Nabi; Sanju Pradhan, Mehtab Hussain, Lenny Rodrigues, Francis Fernandez, Clifford Miranda; Sunil Chhetri
India 2-0 Maldives
India will be the better prepared and fitter side in this match and that is likely to make a difference. With the home crowd egging them on, expect the Blue Tigers to dish out another solid performance. Regardless of the results the fans will also be eager to see the new style of football that has been in the talks recently.