Thimphu (Bhutan), Sep 9 (SocialNews.XYZ) Buoyed by a big win against the Maldives, India will step out with confidence against Bangladesh for the final of the SAFF U-16 Championship 2023 at the picturesque Changlimithang Football Stadium, here on Sunday.
India and Bangladesh have already met in the first match of the tournament-- with India winning 1-0 -- and the clash on Sunday could well serve to be a re-match of sorts.
Though his team won their first encounter, India head coach Ishfaq Ahmed said it would be a challenging outing for his team as Bangladesh are a tough side.
“We have worked so hard to get here, but we know that Bangladesh are a tough side, and we will have to work even harder to beat them in the final and achieve the dream,” Ishfaq Ahmed was quoted as saying by aiff.com in a report.
The India U-16 finished top of Group A, defeating both Bangladesh and Nepal (both matches ending in 1-0 victories), before putting eight goals past the Maldives in the semifinal.
While his boys exhibited a brand of free-flowing football, exerting complete dominance over the Maldives in the last match, Ahmed believes the final will be a totally different ballgame.
“We have played against them, and we expect them to be a very physical side. But this will be a good experience for the boys to show their quality. They are good at set-pieces and winning the 50-50 balls, so we cannot let our guard down. They have certainly improved over the last couple of matches,” he said.
The India U-16s began training approximately a month before the SAFF U-16 Championship in Srinagar, and the boys have done well since then.
“The boys have grown in their responsibilities, and we can attribute it to the camp we had in Srinagar, before the tournament,” said Ahmed
India U-16 midfielder Levis Zangminlun, who was one of the standout performers in the semifinal win over the Maldives, feels that it is essential to put in the hard yards against Bangladesh in the final.
“We have already played against them, and they are a very strong team, very difficult to play against. A lot of hard work has gone into preparing for this tournament, from our side, and we want to make sure that that does not go in vain,” said Levis. “It’s been a great experience for us, but we need to put everything in this final stretch, to bring it home,” he said.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, have shown steely resolve, ever since coming within inches of elimination from the tournament, after losing their first match against India. They defeated Nepal 1-0, and followed that up with a comeback victory against Pakistan (2-1), to book their spot in the summit clash.
Head coach Saifur Rahman Moni said, “It’s very nice to reach the final, but like I said before, we have a lot of respect for India. Our boys have grown mentally stronger since that initial loss against them, and I hope we can erase the mistakes that we have made previously. If we can do that, and stick to our plans, hopefully we can win this.”