India face Nepal test in football

India face Nepal test in football

The young Indian men’s football team will be looking to cap their resurgence at the 12th South Asian Games by ending a 21-year-old title drought when they take on Nepal in the final here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Monday.

India, who have won the SAFF Cup — the premier regional football tournament — a record seven times, have somehow found the South Asian Games a tough puzzle to crack. Although they’ve won the gold three times, the Men In Blue last played the final in 2004 where they lost to hosts Pakistan in Islamabad. They last won the gold way back in 1995 in Chennai (then Madras) and they would be hoping to change their poor record against a plucky Nepal.

Things started on a disastrous note for the hosts in this tournament when they lost to Sri Lanka. Having announced the squad at the very end, the lack of cohesion was clearly evident in that loss. The Lee Johnson wards then stared at an early exit against a gritty Maldives who equalised twice in the final group game. But the Indians found the extra resolve to edge past them before appearing as a settled unit in the semifinal against Bangladesh.

Not only did they put in a good performance, they also got a solid workout against a physical Bangladesh. The eastern neighbours, champions last time, resorted to rough play for most of the second half but the Indians didn’t fall prey to it but rather made their rivals succumb to their own ploy.

Nepal, on the other hand, will be buoyed by their extra-time semifinal win. They’ve had a decent run so far and they would be hoping to spring a surprise and make it two golds to their medals tally.

“Nepal are a very fit side. They had an inspirational victory against Maldives and will come hard at us. The win will keep them motivated. Such sides are always very dangerous,” Johnson said after Sunday’s training session.

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