Blue Tigers gear up for Bangla test in first match of SAFF Championship


Day prior to India’s opening fixture against Bangladesh in the SAFF Championship, and with the morning practice session done, boys have already moved into the match zone.

Head Coach Igor Stimac maintained at the official pre-match press conference that “the first game is always the most difficult game”.

“Bangladesh are a known opponent, but we respect them immensely. In fact, we respect each and every team playing out here, and they have an equal chance to win the tournament,” the coach was quoted as saying by aiff.com.

Team captain Sunil Chhetri stressed that the “message from our coaching staff and Head Coach is very clear”.

“It is more and more about how we play. We gotta make sure that we minimise our mistakes, and we have to make sure that in every game no matter what, we give 100 per cent. We cannot be complacent,” Sunil warned.

It’s been raining in patches, and the locals inform us that in October in Maldives, the rain won’t persist for an entire day unlike the monsoon. “We never take rain seriously this time of the year, unless there’s a threat of depression in the ocean. If it rains just take shelter, check your mobile for 10 minutes. By that time the rain will subside,” laughs the team coordinator Ibrahim, a former footballer. “Of course, you can also walk in the rain.”

Stimac made no secret that he will be making the most of ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players having played in Maldives earlier in the AFC Cup. “We rely on Bengaluru FC and ATKMB players because not only they played here a few weeks back, but they started work with their respective clubs. And they had enough training sessions, and games in their legs. So their engines are good for such a tournament,” he expressed.

“We need to be careful as to how many minutes we give to each player corresponding to what they can do at the moment with regards to endurance capacities.”

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who was part of the triumphant squad in 2015 added: “Teams have vastly improved from the last time we played them. Teams have become more organised, and they know how to play according to the other team’s weaknesses. You cannot take any team lightly anymore.”

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