A beleaguered Indian football team faces Nepal in a must-win match in the SAFF Championship on Sunday. Seven-time winners India are yet to log full points from a game in this edition of the tournament, having drawn both their matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Both the remaining matches are must-win ones for India if they are to make the final.
"Nothing much has changed," head coach Igor Stimac said in the official pre-match press conference. "We are here, and we are still alive in the championship. We are still here to win the tournament," he added. Interestingly, the two teams had played two back-to-back international friendlies in Kathmandu in the first week of September where India had won the second match 2-1, after having drawn the first.
"We know them very well and have played twice against them. It's an open game and if we play well, and do it right on the pitch, I am sure that we can win the game. There is no other option for us than to go out there and win it," Stimac stated. Nepal are leading the points table at the moment with six points having won both their matches against Maldives and Sri Lanka.
"They may have a different approach. They may calculate while playing against us. But we are not worried about them. We will go out to do our job from the first minute itself," the coach added. The Blue Tigers had their practice session on Saturday and the news from the camp is that there are no injury concerns with all 23 players available for selection. Midfielder Brandon Fernandes insisted that the team has "everything to play for." Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Brandon quipped:
"We have had two disappointing results so far. Understandably, the mood was dull in the camp. But tomorrow we have everything to fight for. We are positive, and have prepared well for this game. Everyone is focussed in winning the match." Stimac mentioned about the lack of discipline on the pitch. "We haven't been disciplined enough on the pitch. For all those simple mistakes, we are currently on two points whereas we should have been on six points now," he opined.
"We know it will not be easy against Nepal. But we could win against them in Kathmandu, we can do it here too. But I reiterate that for that to happen we need to be committed and disciplined." Brandon, however, dismissed apprehensions that the Blue Tigers are thinking a bit too much about their opponents. "We are not thinking much about Nepal. Rather, we have been concentrating on what we need to do once it kicks off. Nepal are a good team and are in a good position at the moment.