Mumbai: It has been a reasonably emotional tournament for Sunil Chhetri and Co. From a meagre 2,569 attendance against Chinese Taipei to a full house in games against Kenya and New Zealand at the Mumbai Football Arena, the Blue Tigers have intensity in their roar. The same stadium will host the final of the intercontinental cup between India and Kenya on Sunday.
The dark clouds have been looming over the city for quite a while now and it could be another drenched affair between the two sides. In their last meeting, rain was subsequently heavy and the match was forced into more of an aerial battle in the first half till the showers subsided. The Indian team took away an easy 3-0 win then.
However, Jockins Atudo from the Kenyan side who scored twice against Chinese Taipei seems startlingly confident. “This time around it will be a different result — you just wait and see. We will play to beat India in India,” said Atudo.
As pointed out in many instances, the visitors have tremendous physicality to pounce on set-pieces like the corner kick to break the deadlock against Chinese Taipei. Stephen Constantine is not a stranger to this.
“Kenya showed yesterday that they are capable, especially for (set-pieces), and we need to be very careful and we respect them. But we will try to win the game,” he said.
“Look, what we do in the round-robin is done and dusted. When we go to the next game, you cannot take anything for granted and we will not take anything for granted,” he further stated.
For India, Chhetri has certainly been in a peach of a form. The skipper has netted six times in the tournament including a hat-trick. The slick finish in the dying stages when he dinked the ball over the Kenyan goalkeeper’s head is something that speaks about his mettle. Even in the midfield, Anirudh Thapa and Pranoy Halder have dictated the middle of the pitch with great responsibility. Their absence did hurt in the 2-1 loss against New Zealand. “And of course when you make seven changes, you are not going to play the same system, but the same cohesive way that we did in the other game. We will be at our full strength for this game (final),” assured Constantine.
On the other hand, the strikers for the visitors have shown that they can outmuscle the central defenders of the hosts. Forwards, Pistone Mutamba and Ovella Ochieng won a couple of physical battles to set themselves up for respective chances in the last meeting. Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika will need to keep an eye out and not allow any lapses.
The return of the first team players will certainly not produce a similar result for the hosts like the one against Kiwis....