Confident India eye semifinal spot in SAFF football
New Delhi: Eyeing a semifinal berth after drubbing Bhutan 5-0, a buoyant India would look to continue the winning momentum when they take on Sri Lanka in their last group A encounter of the SAFF Football Championships on Wednesday.
A draw against the island nation, the highest-ranked side in the tournament at 142, would be enough for the 162nd placed Indian side to sail into the semifinal stage.
A defeat, which seems unlikely at this stage given the way Sri Lanka played in their 1-3 defeat to Afghanistan, may end India`s hopes of defending the title they won in Dhaka two years ago.
Coach Savio Medeira is not likely to make too many changes to the squad that thrashed Bhutan, but there is a possibility of experienced right winger Steven Dias returning to the playing XI.
According to Savio, Dias, who had a rather ordinary outing in the opener against Afghanistan, was rested and not dropped for the Bhutan fixture on Monday.
India brought in Nirmal Chhetri in place of an injured Samir Naik, with Anthony Pereira replacing Dias on Monday.
Bhutan do not have the best of strikers but with the Indian citadel, manned by stoppers Gouramangi Singh and Mahesh Gawli and Nirmal Chhetri and Syed Rahim Nabi, maintaining a clean slate against the 198-ranked nation, Savio may be tempted to retain the same combination.
Skipper Climax Lawrence will marshall the midfield with Rocus Lamare for support, though the coach may try out a different option at the latter`s expense.
On the wings will be Clifford Miranda and, in all likelihood, Dias, with Pereira coming on as substitute.
Dempo midfielder Miranda, after a none-too-impressive outing against Afghanistan, came into his own in the match against Bhutan in which he scored twice and created quite a few opportunities.
Against Bhutan, Syed Rahim Nabi opened the scoring in the 29th minute before Sunil Chhetri and Miranda scored two goals each to help their side emerge comfortable winners.
One player who missed out was Jeje Lalpekhlua and the young striker would be keen to get his name on the scoresheet against Sri Lanka and enter the knockout stage on a confident note.
Sri Lanka, who had started the eight-nation regional tournament on a rousing note by pasting Bhutan 3-0, squandered a one-goal advantage yesterday to be eventually thrashed by Afghanistan.
Nipuna Bandara, who scored twice against favourite whipping boys Bhutan, will be the player to watch out for from the rival camp.