On Saturday, India finally demonstrated their might by defeating Nepal in the final of the 2021 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship. India was staring down the barrel just a few days ago after securing draws over lower-ranked Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, on a rainy day in Male, Maldives, India overcame Nepal with three second-half goals to reaffirm its dominance in South Asia.
With both heads coaches suspended, Igor Stimac and Abdullah Almutairi, there was minimal action on the sidelines, which is unusual in today’s game. The players, on the other hand, kept the crowd of a few thousand who had arrived to see the regional talent entertained, with India captain Sunil Chhetri once again stealing the show with a brilliant performance.
India dominated possession in the first half, as expected, but was unable to break the deadlock. Soon after the intermission, the 37-year-old scored with a straightforward header from a Pritam Kotal delivery in the 48th minute. And following a Yasir Mohammad run, youthful Suresh Wangjam hammered one through the Nepalese defense to make it 2-0.
The rapid goals have taken a toll on Nepal’s morale, as evidenced by Abdullah Almutairi’s team’s bewildering style of play. India, on the other hand, is on the verge of winning the World Cup for the eighth time.
In every area of the game, India continued to dominate. Nepal, on the other hand, put Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to the test on several occasions. Sahal Abdul Samad then scored a 90th-minute stoppage-time goal to give India the SAFF Championship after the Maldives had won the previous edition.
With the goal, Chhetri surpassed Argentine superstar Lionel Messi as the active player with the second-most goals. They currently have 80 international goals between them, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (115).
With 19 attempts, India has held 65 percent possession. After Jiri Pesek (1993) and Stephen Constantine (2015), Stimac became only the third foreign coach to win the title with the Indian squad.
But, more importantly, the victory would help calm India’s frazzled nerves following the team’s recent bad results. India had also defeated Nepal by a lone Chhetri goal in the round-robin match. The final was India’s 12th in 13 editions.