Opportunity for India to create history

Defending champions look to ward off tough Syrian outfit in the final

Bhaichung Bhutia

Two years ago at the Ambedkar Stadium, the home team had beaten the Syrians in front of a 20,000-strong crowd to win their maiden Nehru Cup title after losing to the same opponents in their round-robin fixture.

Bob Houghton’s boys will have to take confidence from the history books once again after losing their last round-robin league match to the Syrians, 61 places above India in FIFA rankings at 95th, on Saturday.

India did not start with five first XI players, including Bhutia, and Houghton was satisfied with the performance of his boys but the fact is that Syria had been the better side in the tournament having won all their four matches while the hosts had also lost to Lebanon.
Houghton though is not losing hope and rightly too as the home team will be bolstered by the return of two of the best players in the tournament — Bhaichung Bhutia and Steven Dias — in the starting line-up on the morrow.

Bhutia has been outstanding as he has led from the front in the two matches India won by opening scoring and spearheading the attack admirably well along with Sunil Chhetri. Bhutia’s presence in the Indian ranks will also infuse confidence in his team-mates.

Another star performer, Dias, will also be looking to repeat his performance against Sri Lanka and with the return of right back Surkumar Singh. It will be an interesting duel between the Indian frontmen and Syrian backline, which has not conceded a single goal so far. Bhutia and Co will have to do something extra to break through the Syrian citadel manned by two of the best defenders of the tournament — Ali Dyab and Belal Abdul Daim.

In contrast, India’s Achilles heal has been the back four who have conceded some soft goals in the league stage. They have to work extra hard against Syrian star striker Mohammad Al Zino and midfielder Feras Ismail.
For the Delhi crowd though it will be the match they are waiting for — a game between full strength Indian and Syrian sides.

Teams (from): India: Subrata Paul, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Anwar Ali, Deepak Mondal, Bhaichung Bhutia (C), Mahesh Gawli, Surkumar Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Samir Naik, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, NP Pradeep, Renedy Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Steven Dias, Anthony Pereira, Climax Lawrence, Sunil Chhetri, Sushil Kumar Singh, Abhishek Yadav.

Syria: Mosab Balhous, Moustafa Shakosh, Hamzeh Al Aitoni, Ali Dyab, Wael Ayan, Mohamed Al Zeno, Belal Abdul Daim, Abdul Razak Al Hussain, Abdul Fatah Alaga, Alaa Alshbli, Feras Ismail, Raja Rafe, Kawa Hisso, Moutaz Kaildni, Jwan Hisso, Ahmad Haj Mohamad, Bakri Tarrab.

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