With just a few days left for the biggest football tournament in South Asia, The HardTackle look at the key players of the SAFF Championship who could turn the match on their own.
Sunil Chettri (India)
Indian Captain, who is just 3 goals away from being the all-time goal scorer of India, will be the biggest asset for Indian team in SAFF championship 2013.
Since making his debut for Indian senior team Sunil Chettri has moved from strength to strength. The striker is considered to be a big threat for rival defender. Chettri was top goal scorer of tournament in previous editions of SAFF Championship. The striker made it difficult for opposing defender and scored 7 goals which helped team India to win the championship
Sunil Chettri has struggled in recent few matches for various reasons. One of the reasons has been the lack of match fitness. Koeverman’ s strategy to play a single striker upfront has also not helped his cause. Against physically stronger defenders, he is finding it hard to get past them and lack of support from midfield is adding problems for him.
Indian football fans will hope that their talismanic captain can regain his form and score goals for his country. The midfield will have to play a crucial role to provide him enough opportunities to get a shot on goal. If Sunil Chettri clicks and scores few goals; then India certainly will come out as victorious in the Championship.
Ali Ashfaq (Maldive)
Popularly known as “Dhagandey” The Man of the steel, Ali Ashfaq will be one man who has put a lot faith in Maldivian football fans. Ashfaq presence in the team not only lifts the presence of team mates but also lifts the fans. His presence makes fans believe that their team will win in any situation.
Since making his debut at very young age, Ali Ashfaq has been the best player of the team. He has single handedly scored goals and helped his team win a lot of matches. The arrival of Ali Ashfaq in the national setup has made the Maldives National team a force to reckon with.
Ali Ashfaq has had an absolutely stunning season with his club New Radiant. The striker first led his club to the quarterfinals of the AFC cup. He is highest goal scorer in the competition and when the tournament resume and New Radiant play in quaterfinals, Ashfaq will look to add more goals to that tally. Ali Ashfaq will be playing with a few of his club team mates in the national team and this will be advantageous for the striker. He will look to convert each and every opportunity he gets.
The “Dhangandey” will certainly look to rectify the mistakes from last time and help his team win the Championship and continue his great run of the season.
Zesh Rehman (Pakistan)
Zesh Rehman is among the very few Asians who went on to play for top division English club sides. He is known for his stint with Fulham Football Club in England. After playing for English Junior side, Zesh decided to play for his native country Pakistan.
Zesh made his debut for Pakistan in the 2005 SAFF Championship against Sri Lanka. Pakistan’ s performance was commendable in the edition.Since his debut Zesh has missed quite a lot of International matches for Pakistan due to various reasons.
2013 SAFF Championship will be like his return to national setup and he would be more than happy to perform well for his country. Zesh is among very few Pakistani players who play for top division overseas league and his experience of playing for top clubs around the globe will come handy in the tournament. Pakistan will start their campaign against defending Champions India and if Zesh can able to hold on the defence properly then who knows we may a have upset in our hand.
Rohit Chand (Nepal)
Rohit Chand is among very few players in Nepal national football team who have played for the club outside Nepal. Chand has played for Indian club HAL before he signed on dotted lines for Indonesian club PSPS Pekanbaru. He currently plays for Persija Jakarta in Indonesia Super League.
Chand made his debut for the national team at a very young age against Pakistan in AFC Challenge Cup. Since then Chand has been an integral part of the Nepal National football team. The youngster predominantly plays at Center back but if needed can play as a defensive midfielder. He has been having a good season so far with the Indonesian club and he will take this confidence going into the SAFF championship.
The youngster has loads of experience now under his belt and this experience will be counted in the group stages. Nepal will be up against India and Bangladesh who previously have been champions in SAFF championship and he will have a crucial role to play if Nepal wants to entertain any chance of reaching Knock out phase of the tournament.
Rohit Chand is one of the future stars for Nepal football and he will have a good bunch of player who will look to create history. If Rohit Chant is able to put up a magical performance that surely Nepal could entertain their thoughts of winning the championship for the first time on the home soil.
Balal Arezou (Afghanistan)
The Afghanistan national football team was a revolution in the last edition of SAFF championship. The Afghanistan federation has included a host of European based players in national setup. The European based players made a huge impact and first time in history of Afghanistan, the national team reached in the finals of the SAFF championship in 2011. One of the major contributors of this revival was young striker Balal Arezou. The Norway based striker was in stunning form for his nation and was the second highest goal scorer in the tournament.
Balal since then has earned a lot of fame in South Asian and this has helped him to earn contracts with I-League clubs Churchill Brothers. Balal’ s move on loan with Churchill Brother was a short one but his club went on to become I-League champions.
Balal is one of the deadliest strikers in South Asia. The Afghan team will be revolving around him. He will have good support from his team mates and will he look to repeat his last year heroics. Balal will be the key figure in the upcoming SAFF championship and if he is able to perform like last time than Afghanistan will look to put the last time’s heartbreak behind and win the championship this time around. Balal’ s form will play a key role in the upcoming SAFF championship for Afghanistan.