India grappling with injury problems ahead of SAFF Cup final

June 13th, 2008 - 9:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, June 13 (IANS) An injury-ridden Indian team will have a tough time when they face Maldives in defence of their South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup title in the final at the Sugathadasa Stadium here Saturday. It has been a scrappy performance from the defending champions in the tournament and in the semi-final they were lucky to escape with a narrow win over lowly-ranked Bhutan.

With injuries to defender N.S. Manju and mid-fielders Renedy Singh, Steven Dias and Climax Lawrence, it seems that India’s problems have been compounded. Manju was injured in the first match against Nepal and has missed all the matches since then. Renedy, Steven and Climax pulled their hamstring in the semi-final, Wednesday night.

In the given scenario, coach British coach Bob Houghton will have a tough time getting a fit eleven against Maldives, who gave a tough fight to the defending champions before going down 0-1 in their last group match at home.

India’s team manager Pradeep Chowdhury wore a worried look on the eve of the match but put up a brave face: “We are prepared.”

Sloppy defence and missed chances has been a problem for the Indian team but Chowdhury was searching positives from their matches.

“It has been a average performance by us. But we have won all the games in a tight schedule and that is commendable. We have created lot of goal scoring opportunities in the last match as well and in the final we can’t afford to miss them,” he added.

Houghton will prefer to go out with his preferred 4-4-2 formation in the final with captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri leading the attack.

But India will have problems in arranging the midfield. Steven is out and will be replaced by Bungo, who along with N.P. Pradeep, Climax and Renedy will cover the mid-field.

Wing back Sameer Naik, after missing the semi-final due to double booking, will return to boost the defence. Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal and Gourmangi Singh will be the other defenders with Subrata Paul in the goal.

The defence will, however, have to thwart fiery Maldives striker Ali Ashfaq, who has been in fine form in the tournament.

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