Dhaka: Boosted by an undefeated run, seven-time champions India will start favourites against Maldives in the summit clash of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup here, Saturday.
The last time the two sides met at the Bangabandhu Stadium here in 2009, the match was decided on penalties. Stephen Constantine would not want Saturday’s game to follow the same path.
“Maldives have shown their worth in the semifinal against Nepal. A 3-0 win against Nepal was not an easy task. Even though we have won against them in the group stage, we cannot afford to disrespect them. We have to keep in mind that three of their main players did not play against us,” Constantine said Friday.
“Maldives have our full respect and we are expecting a tough game. But we also deserve to be in the final. We fear none and as I said before, we have come with a strong intent to win the tournament,” added the Indian coach.
Constantine said his players have the added incentive of doing well as they can earn a place in the Asian Cup squad. “These boys have a carrot in front of them which is a berth in the Asian Cup squad. They are well aware of the fact that they need to perform constantly to earn the same,” asserted Constantine.
Manvir Singh, who scored a brace against Pakistan in the semifinal to win his successive MVP (most valuable player) award of the tournament, said the focus is to continue the good work.
“It was a tough group and the job was never going to be easy. But we had the self-belief to churn out the positive results and eventually, we did,” Manvir stated.
“Now, our focus is on the final. We are working as a unit and we just need to keep our heads down and continue the work,” the 23-year-old striker who is leading the goalscorers’ chart with three goals, added.