SAFF Cup: Afghanistan eye revenge against India in final

Kathmandu, Sep 10 (IANS) Defending champions India will have to raise their game by several notches when they face a much-improved and spirited Afghanistan in the final of the SAFF Cup football tournament at the Dasarath Stadium here Wednesday.

It will be a repeat of the 2011 final in New Delhi, when India beat Afghanistan 4-0 to win the title.

But in the last two years, Afghanistan have improved by leaps and bounds. They were the biggest movers in the FIFA rankings in March moving up by 48 places to 141 from 189. Afghanistan are now 139th while India are 145th.

India have been unimpressive in the tournament but the good news for the team is that skipper Sunil Chettri will be available after missing the semi-final against Maldives.

"It easier to play. It's very hard to sit out. The tension from the stands is unbearable," said Chettri.

Afghanistan's Assistant Coach Ali Jawad Attayee warned India that they are no more the side that lost to India in the 2011 final.

"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," said Attayee.

India's Dutch coach Wim Koevermans remains unfazed.

"They are free to judge us. We are in the final and will play it on the field. 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. We are in the final and we had told ourselves that we want to play five finals," he said.

Chhetri said that the team wants to carry to momentum from the Maldives match into the final.

"It's all about teamwork. We intend to take the momentum of the Maldives match into the final," he said.

Koevermans concurred with Chettri and said: "Against Maldives we defended well. And I reiterate, defending is never about individuals but all about teamwork."

The cramped schedule has taken a toll on the Indian players.

"Arata Izumi had a nasty fall against Maldives. The medical staff are working with him. It's too early to comment about his availability," Koevermans informed.

Midfielder Lenny Rodrigues isn't willing to read into FIFA Rankings. "Rankings are tricky. It all boils down to the specific day," he maintained.

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