Nilanjan Datta

“Focus! Don’t lose it. We are still to play our Fifth Final,” National Coach Wim Koevermans stated at the Dressing Room after India breezed past Maldives in the semifinal. The buildup for the Final started.

It was a sight to see Sunil Chhetri sitting in the gallery against Maldives. The ice-cool Captain stays a baby off the field – tensed, passionate and patriotic. He stays available for the Final. “It easier to play. It’s very hard to sit out. The tension from the stands in unbearable,” he states.

Indeed it is! Another match awaits.

The Indian Team practice at the Police Headquarters Ground in Kathmandu

“Afghanistan are much superior to India, both technically and physically. What happened two years back in the 2011 Final was all because of the Referee. The whole Nation is still upset about it. We are here for revenge,” Afghanistan’s Assistant Coach Ali Jawad Attayee pronounced at the Official Press Conference.

India had beaten Afghanistan 4-0 to lift the Cup in New Delhi in 2011.
Head Coach Wim Koevermans smiles. “They are free to judge us. We are in the Final and will play it on the Field,” he utters. “The Final is a different game and it will be a tough match. We do have some small-sized Players in our squad but they are all Piranhas,” he joked. “We are in the Final and we had told ourselves that we want to play Five Finals.”

The two Captains pose with the Trophy

National Captain Sunil Chhetri stressed it’s not about individuals. “It’s all about Teamwork. We intend to take the momentum of the Maldives match into the Final,” he said. “Against Maldives we defended well. And I reiterate, defending is never about individuals but all about teamwork,” Koevermans complemented Chhetri.

Significantly, at the morning recovery session at the Police Headquarters Ground, Mehtab Hossain had echoed the same sentiment. “We need to play a Team Game.” Teamwork – that has been the sentiment of the Indian National Team in Kathmandu — ‘Together we stay, Together we play, Together we win.’

With the Team playing almost every alternate day the Medical Team has taken uttermost care of all. And that the Team is heading into the Final without any injury speaks for the care form the Medical Staff and fitness levels of the Players. “Arata Izumi had a nasty fall against Maldives. The Medical Staff are working on him. It’s too early to comment about his availability,” Koevermans informed.

The FIFA Rankings indicate Afghanistan are ranked at 139 while India are at 145. But midfielder Lenny Rodrigues isn’t too much willing to read into FIFA Rankings. “Rankings are tricky. It all boils down to the specific day,” he maintained.

The manner the two rival Captains chatted at the Official Photo shoot prior to the Final may have made on believe they stay the best of pals. The two do share a great camaraderie off the field but Wednesday (September 11) will be “different.”

Afghanistan feel they are “better” and want “revenge;” India on the other hand intend to “carry forward the momentum.” The kick-off at the Dasrath Stadium is at IST 6.15pm.