India vs Kuwait, SAFF Championship final Highlights: India wins 5-4 in penalties; Sunil Chhetri wins Golden Boot, Golden Ball

July 5, 2023 | by

SAFF Championship 2023 final highlights, IND vs KUW: Enjoy the highlights of the match between India and Kuwait, as Sunil Chhetri and Co. beat Kuwait in sudden death to defend the SAFF Cup title.

Welcome to Sportstar’s live blog of the SAFF Championship 2023 final between India and Kuwait, being played at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. This is Neeladri Bhattacharjee taking you through the minute-by-minute updates of the high-voltage clash as it happens.

That was all for tonight. India wins its ninth SAFF Championship title, extending its record in the tournament. We will continue bringing live updates on Indian Football as it happens. Until then, take very good care of yourselves and thank you so much for tuning in.

Key Updates
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:57Time to crown the winner – Team India!The Blue Tigers walk up to the stage with fans singing “Campeones, Campeones, Ole ole ole!”. It is their third trophy in three months and they are still unbeaten in 2023.They get a prize money of USD 50,000 which is approximately 41 lakh rupees in INR.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:55Time to give the medals away: Runner-up and the winnersKuwait walks up for the runner-up medals. They came to India with hope and wil go back with the same, having delivered a brave performance and eventually losing to record winners of the competitons.They get a prize money of USD 25000, which is approximately 20.5 lakhs.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:45Prize distribution ceremony updates!
    • Nagendra Rao, the Sports Minister of Karnataka gets the token of appreciation on beahlf of the state for organising the tournament.
    • Time for honouring the match officials: AIFF general secretary Shaji Prabhakaran gives away the edals to the match officials, starting with Match commissioner Mindu Dorji.
    • Nepal wins the Fair Play Award for showing the greatest spirit of the game
    • Best goalkeeper of the competition: Anisur Rehman – Bangladesh
    • Golden Boot: Sunil Chhetri
    • Golden Ball: Sunil Chhetri
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:39A guard of honour for Kuwait!India queues up for a guard of honour for Kuwait. The west-Asian side has been a fantastic visitor in its maiden SAFF Championship campaign and will go home with immense pride, forcing the match right to sudden death.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:34Sunil Chhetri’s reactionI’m so happy everyone chipped in. They are not an easy side to play against and I’m so happy that we ended that tournament like this.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:32Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s reactionAll credit to the boys for not giving up after conceding the goal. I think that was the weakest point for us in the game. Kuwait just stuck to that goal and when it goes into penalties, anyone can win and today was ourt day.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:31A victory lap with the fans!Over 26,000 fans singing Vante Mataram at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as India does its victory lap at a place that has celebrated, prayed and cheered with every heart in the country throughout the tournament.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:24Match Report
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:10Penalty Shootout Updates!The shootout will be taken in the southern end of the stadium, as was the case in India’s win against Lebanon in the semifinal.
    • Sunil Chhetri steps up to take the first penalty. His strike rattles the net off the bar. (IND 1-0 KUW)
    • Abdullah misses, hits the bar for Kuwait. (IND 1-0 KUW)
    • Jhingan steps up for the second penalty and scores with ease, sending the goalkeeper the other side. Alotaibi sends Gurpreet the other side to score. (IND 2-1 KUW)
    • Chhangte scores for India with ease. (IND 3-1 KUW)
    • Aldhefeery scores for Kuwait. (IND 3-2 KUW)
    • Udanta skies if over the net to give Kuwait a chance to make a comeback .(IND 3-2 KUW)
    • Mahran steps up for Kuwait and scores, despite Gurpreet jumping the right way. (IND 3-3 KUW)
    • Subhasish Bose find the net for India. (IND 4-3 KUW)
    • Alkhaldi finds the bottom left corner to force it to sudden death. (IND 4-4 KUW)
    • Mahesh Singh scores with ease for India. (IND 5-4 KUW)
    • Hajiah, Kuwait’s captain, steps up for the next spot-kick. Gurpreet saves the shot to win in for India. (IND 5-4 KUW)
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:09What is India’s record in penalty shootouts in a Cup final?
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:09End of Extra-time. Match into penalties!120 Minutes could not decide the winner as we enter the eventuality of a penalty shootout. India’s momentum from the Lebanon win, and its history in a final, 11 years ago would encourage the Blue Tigers here.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:07120+1’Rohit Kumar tries to get the ball in the final thiord but fouls Mahdi Dashti, ending that chance. Kuwait, on the other hand, goes for an attack and Akhaldi’s failes overhead kick sees Poojary get an injury.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:04119’ Chhangte’s strike Just over the bar!Poojary makes a good run along the right flank, runs past the Kuwait defenders and crosses for Chhangte, who receives the ball with one touch and shoots with the other only to see it whistling over the goal.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:02116’Alrashidi brings down Jeakson in the Indian half and the hosts get a free-kick. The Viking Claps are back by the Indian fans as 26, 318 of them continue cheering at the stadium, hoping for India’s win.
  • JULY 04, 2023 22:00Another booking for Kuwait!Alfahad tries to get the ball off Rohit Kumar along the left flank and end up fouling him. The referee books him right away — the sixth booking for the visitors.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:59114’First touch for Subhasish as India slowly builds from the back. India’s long ball is blocked by Kuwait, only for Udanta to get to it. But his pass for Chhetri is intercepted and cleared by Kuwait.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:57112’ Forced change for IndiaAkash Mishra is still struggling with fitness and India decides to replace him in the last moments, with Subhasish Bose replacing him.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:56110’Indian fans sing ‘Vande Mataram’ to cheer up the team which has roared and marched well into the final, with wins over Pakistan, Lebanon and Nepal. Five more minutes plus added time for India to defend its crown through normal progression of play.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:54109’Mahesh whips in a cross for Udanta in the box, from the left flank but Dashti gets to it first and clears it away.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:53108’Fatigue finally catching up with the players with Akash Mishra down, receving medical attention. Eventually, he is back on his feet.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:51ET second half begins!Kuwait gets the second half underway with Abdullah still ready to create chances. His backheel for Alotaibi is struck well but Mahesh makes a timely interception to stop that for a corner. The corner is finally cleared by India.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:49ET Half-Time! India 1-1 Kuwait105 Minutes plus injury time done and still no winner in this match. The next half will begin in a few minutes as the Blue Tigers hope for a breakthrough before entering the eventuality of a penalty shootout.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:47105+1’Last minute of extra-time first-half. The teams, just like the previous match, have remained extremely level in every department. Abdullah tries tha ast attempt of the half with a right-footed hit from outside the box, which is gobbled up by Gurpreet.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:45114’Akash Mishra threads a pass for Chhangte on the left but the ball rolls to Marzouq. India has inverted its wingers, with Chhangte now playing on the left and Udanta on the right.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:44103’Alkhaldi looks to have pulled a muscle and the referee indicates to the Kuwait bench to send their medical team. Meanwhile, Udanta and Chhetri, two BFC boys not so long ago, discuss how to breahc Kuwait’s defence
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:41100’Mahesh Singh’s free-kick is headedaway by Kuwait. Meanwhile, Kuwait was forced to make a change with Alenezi pulling a muscle, with the player stretchered out of play.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:4097’Mahesh tries an attack along the right flank and is fouled by Kuwait. Udanta pairs with Mahesh for a set-piece attempt. Kuwait, however, bloke it for a corner kick.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:3796’Kuwait’s attempts from the set piece continue to remain toothless with Jhingan getting the ball out of the box and then Poojary clearing it out of danger.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:3694’Alfahad and Alrashidi combine along the right flank in similar fashion as that of India against Lebanon in the Intercontinental Cup final (first goal), with Alfahad providing the back-heel but Mahesh makes crucial block to keep Kuwait’s attacks at bay.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:3493’Dashti makes a run along the left flank but Jhingan stays put to ensure the ball goes out for a corner. The corner, to, is cleared by India in what has been a very good defensive display so far
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:3392’Alotaini tries a diagonal pass from the left but Gurpreet intercepts and clears it away. Alrashidi tries another attack seconds later but is blocked by two orange shirts in the Indian penalty box.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:31ET first half begins!India gets the ball rolling for the first half of exrta-time, with India trying to play from the back, early on.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:26End of regulation time! IND 1-1 KUWAfter 90 minutes of this contest, there is still no clear winner here in Bengaluru as the match goes into extra-time now.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:2590+5’Chhangte’s cut back in the box is met by Udanta, who eventually loses control and goes to ground. No penalty there as Mazrouq takes the goal kick.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:2490+4’Mahesh gets the ball in the box, keeps it stuck to his feet and sets up Rohit, who crosses in the centre but no one is there to meet the cross.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:2290+2’ Gurpreet saves a certain goal!Dashti’s throw-in, received by Abdullah is then hit with his right foot for the bottom-left corner. But a great saveby Gurpreet denies a certain winner for Kuwait
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1990’ Change for IndiaIn: Udanta Singh, Out: Sahal Abdul Samad
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1989’Alkhaldi takes Kuwait’s free-kick which hits the Indian wall and the corner that follows has India getting a free-kick after Kuwait’s foul in the Indian penalty box.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1788’ Change in personnel for Kuwait!Fawaz Alotaini and Mahdi Dashti step into the pitch as Kuwait looks to shift gears in the last quarter of the second half.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1586’Sahal tries to draw defenders towards himself as he turns and threads a pass through. However, there are no India players to receive the ball.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1484’India has tries to breach the right flank, with Poojary drawing defenders towards himself and releasing Chhangte. But Chhangte’s cross is intercepted and as India tries to get it back into the box, Chhetri is ruled off-side.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1282’Kuwait gets a free-kick in the midfield with Hajia trying a shot from distance. However, Gurpreet can only see the captain’s strike glide off-target, away from danger.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:1079’Kuwait continues to march forward. Alkhaldi gets the ball to Alqallaf, who shoots with his left foot wide off-target.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0878’Jhingan tries to intercept Kuwait’s long ball for Alkhaldi and ends up fouling him in the process. The visitors insist for a card for the defender who is already on a yellow card. But the referee resumes play after a verbal warning.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0777’Rohit Kumar delivers a diagonal ball for Chhangte, who receives the ball and tries to cut to his left. However, he looses his footing and Kuwait gets the ball back in attack.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0576’Mehtab gets a long ball for Chhetri, who gets the ball to the ground, but his pass to Mahesh and then to Chhangte is intercepted and cleared by Kuwait.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0474’ Rohit Kumar into the bookRohit Kumar gets into a tussle for the ball Alenezi. He gets the ball but pushed the Kuwait No. 6 soon after, which leads to the midfielder getting a yellow card.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0273’India’s pressure is forcing Kuwait to go with sideways passing and then delivery of long balls. That, too, is being contained by the offside traps. India looks in control but it is goals that win the match — that is something it will have to look for now.
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0172’ Double change for India!In: Mahesh Singh, Rohit Kumar, Out: Ashique Kuruniyan, Anirudh Thapa
  • JULY 04, 2023 21:0070’India is pressing really hard with Akash bringing down Al Rashidi. The Blue Tigers are maintaining a 4-3-3 shape that is moving to a 5-3-2 shape, according to situations in the match.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5868’ Change for Kuwait!In: Eid Alrashidi, Out: Al FaneeniWise decision by the visitors. Al Faneeni was lacking discipline and had been booked as well.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5665’ Two cards in two minutes!Alfaneeni tries to attack on the counter as he makes a run along the right flank but Ashique pulls his shirt to get a yellow card!In the next minute, Sunil Chhetri is pulled back by Abdullah to get a booking as well. A yellow card for either side.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5364’ Foul by Chhangte!India tries to press Kuwait up the pitch and this time a push from behind by Chhangte on Aldhefeery gives the vistors a free-kick.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5262’ Chance for India!Mazrouq’a kick is headed back into their hal by Ashique and after a touch by Chhetri, Chhangte’s soft shot on target is saved by Mazrouq.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5161’Thapa’s right-footed free-kick is easily taken control of by Mazrouq. He kicks the ball back into the Indian half.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:5060’ Another booking for Kuwait!Kuwait continues its physical style of play, with Alwallaf fouling Thapa just when the former Chennayin FC captain was marching into the final third. The referee books the Kuwait No. 15.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4959’Poojary is beaten by Abdullah in the next chance where the No. 90 whips in a cross to the centre but Jhingan clears it our of play for corner kick. Aldhefeery takes the kick, which is cleared by Mehtab.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4757’Kuwait tries to attack on the counter with Abdullah chasing the ball in teh box but Nikhil Poojary tracks back right on time to force a goal kick and avoid a chance for the visitors to strike.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4656’Akash Mishra marauds down the left flank, beats two blue shirts but ends up fouling Albloushi to end that devlopment.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4555’India is the most successful team in the SAF FChampionship with eight titles so far. Tonight, Chhante’s equaliser has rekindles India’s hopes in this game and it remains to be seen if the Blue Tigers can complete a comeback.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4253’ Jhingan  to the rescue!Abdullah side steps his marker, Thapa and gets the ball into the box for Alkhaldi in the penalty box. But Jhingan intercepts the pass to clear the ball out of play.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:4151’Thapa successfully completes his defensive duty, forcing Alqallaf to get the ball out of play. India starts an attack from the throw-in but ends with Chhetri being ruled off-side.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:3949’Gurpreet starts a build-up from the back, gets a pass to Mehtab, who manages to keep the ball to his feet and then gets it to Akash, who gives it to Chhetri. Chhetri’s overlaping pass ends with a Kuwait interception to clear the ball away.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:37Fan reaction for the Chhangte equaliser from the stadium!
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:3747’Chhangte and Poojary combine for an attack on the right flank but Kuwait stops it with an India throw-in. Poojary crosses for Chhetri second later only for Mazrouq to pounce on it before Chhetri could reach it.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:34Second Half begins!Aldhefeery gets the ball rolling for the second half as the contest remains level after 45 minutes of exciting football so far tonight.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:20All square at half-time! India 1-1 KuwaitA valiant equaliser by Chhangte, eight minutes after the half-hour mark, keeps India well into the game, level at 1-1. The team, however, saw one of its defenders, Anwar Ali, being carries out after an injury.​​
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:1945+4’Thapa’s corner kick is cleared by Kuwait, with the half almost done and dusted with a Mazrouq goal-kick.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:18Triple yellow for Kuwait!The referee stops play after a rash challenge by Albloushi, who is booked eventually. Aldhefeery aggressively protests for the booking and gets a yelow card himself. Seconds later, the coach, Ruoi Bento, is booked for dissent.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:1645’Alqallaf is tripped by hhangte on the right flank and the Kuwaniot No. 15 goes down holding his ankle. The India fans continues their jeers as they feel they are wasting time.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:1544’Akash gets the ball to Kuriniyan on the left flabk as India tries to continues its attack through the wings but the ball is overshot for a goal kick to Kuwait.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:1443’Jeakson Singh concedes a free kick close to the box. Aldhefeery gets the ball into the box with a left-footed curler which is punched away by Gurpreet.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:1341’ First yellow card for Kuwait!Redha Abujabarah is penalised for a late challenge to get the first booking for the visitors, to the applause and cheers of Indian fans at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:09FULL-TIME!!38′ Goal! India equalises, IND 1-1 KUWKuruniyan gets the ball after a failed clearance by Al Dhefeery. He turns and passes to Sunil Chhetri, who threads a pass through to Sahal who crosses for Chhangte to slot it in for the equaliser.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:0737’Kuwait continues to attack with long shots with AlKhaldi trying one from the right and then Abdullah tries another from the middle of the park. Both were off-target as Gurpreet remains unperturbed with the attempts.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:0535’ Anwar stretchered out of play!Anwar Ali looks to have hurt himself in the process of defending the ball out of danger. He is stretchered out of play as Mehtab replaces him.
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:0332’It’s all Kuwait at the moment in attack. Alfaneeni, after a block by India, crosses the ball in trhe centre but Jhingan clears it away
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:0231’Alqalaf gets the ball off Albloushi, who tries to complete an overlap. But Alqalaf sidesteps Ashique to try a long diagonal cross in the centre of the box. Gurpreet, however, gets to the ball with ease
  • JULY 04, 2023 20:0029’ Jhingan into the book!Jhingan tries to get his head to a free-kick but fould Alharbi in the process and the referee reaches for his card for the offence. First booking of the game.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5827’ Early change for Kuwait!In: Hamad Alharbi, Out: Hasan Alanezi
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5726’Alanezi is again the centre of attention with a push on Sahal. The Indian players surround the referee asking for a card but the referee is not interested at all. Stimac is seen, writing his notes for the assistant coach.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5524’Ashique Kuruniyan is fouled by Ashique and the Kuwait No. 6 brushes his shoulder with the Indian winger before moving away. The refree gives a foul but nothingf more, despite Indian players appealing for a card.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5322’Jeakson has dropped a bit low to play the role of an additional centre-bacl with India trying its best to not concede further. Meanwhile, Alenezi steals the ball off India with a key interception but Sahal fould him with alate challenge.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5221’Al Dhefeery tries a long free-kick which confortably flies out of play without causing any trouble to India or its keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:5020’Kuwait tries another attack with an overlapping run in the midfield but Jeakso =n fouls AlKhaldi to stop play and gift the visitors with a free-kick.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:4916’ India almost scores!Chhangte shoots from distance to force a save by Marzouq. But the goalkeeper fails to keep the ball in his gloves with Chhetri rushing in to strike on the follow-up. Hajiah, however, clears the ball away for Kuwait.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:44FULL-TIME!!14’ Goal! IND 0-1 KUWKuwait attacks on the counter with Al Feneeni gets the ball moving with Albloushi crossing for Alkhaldi on a cut-back. Alkhaldi was unmarked in the box and he shoots into the net to give Kuwait an early lead.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:4313’Chhangte to Thapa and then to Anwar Ali, whose attempt to get the ball up front is quashed by Kuwait as he gets the ball back to Gurpreet.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:4211’Alkhaldi and Abdullah try to combine for a Kuwait attack but India intercepts the pass right in front of the final third to avoid another attempt by the visitors.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:4110’Abdullah tries a shot from distance, which hits Poojary to land no top of the net and out for a corner kick. The corner kick is cleared by India as well.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:399’Kuwait is trying to get the ball through into the final third from the mid-block but India has an ornage shirt stuck to every forward to deny an early chance.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:387’Abdullah and Alfaneeni attack against the run of play for Kuwait with the former crossing forthe latter in the Indian penalty box. But just after Alfaneeni gets the ball he is ruled off-side.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:376’India tries an attack along the left flank, with Kuruniyan trying to get the ball into the final third for a cross but Kuwait gets it out of play for a corner kick. Thapa takes the corner kick which is punched away by Mazrouq.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:366’India looking much more solid than the previous game with the return of Jhingan alongside Anwar as they clear a long ball from Kuwait to clear the danger.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:344’ Early save by Kuwait!India tries an attack through set-pieves with Akash crossing the ball for Chhetri, whose header is caught by Marzouq to end that attack.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:332’India has started the match with the four-man defence. Kuwait tries to start an attack and Anirudh Thapa clears the ball away. Meanwhile Albloushi goes to ground after a challenge by Kuriniyan and the fans boo the visitors loudly.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:31Kick-Off!The match begins with India setting the ball in action from right to left, in orange. Kuwait, in blue, starts from the other end.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:29The stage is setFolded hands, silent prayers and banners cheering for India at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. Wherever you are in the world, this is the place to be in if you are a fan of Indian Football. Cheers, banners and chants echo around the arena before kick-off!
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:26Minutes to kick-off!The players walk out of the tunnel and line up for their national anthems. But before that, N. A. Harris, Karnataka Football chief, Kalyan Chaubey, the president of AIFF and Shaji Prabhakaran, the general secretary of the AIFF greet the players.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:1515 minutes to kick-off!Kuwait has made six changes to the side that played Bangladesh in the semifinal, keeping India guessing for what is to come in the clash. Meanwhile, Indian fans are on their feet to cheer the hosts for this crucial game.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:04Final warm-up sessions on!Last few minutes for the teams to brush up their routines practised for the match as both sides take the field in front of a sold out crowd. The game, for sure, is going to be a mouth watering one.
  • JULY 04, 2023 19:03A chance to shine for Akash!Akash Mishra was awarded the emerging player of the year award by the AIFF after the Annual General Meeting in Bengaluru. The former Hyderabad FC full-back has been a revelation in the Indian Super League and will hope to continue his form in this summit clash against Kuwait.
  • JULY 04, 2023 18:51Captain. Leader, Legend — Sunil Chhetri gets a hero’s welcome ahead of the finalBengaluru FC and India captain Sunil Chhetri received a hero’s welcome before the SAFF Championship final against Kuwait. Chhetri had scored the only goal for India in the previous clash between the two sides.
  • JULY 04, 2023 18:49How different is this side from the SAFF Championship semifinal?India has made three changes from the side that started against Lebanon in the semifinal. Akash Mishra and Nikhil Poojary return as full-backs and Sandesh Jhingan replaces Mehtab Singh after completing his supension in the previous game.
  • JULY 04, 2023 18:39The Blue Army’s welcome for Team India!Indian Football fans sing Vande Mataram as Team India arrives for the SAFF Championship final against Kuwait in Bengaluru. India’s crown is at stake — one which it secured two years ago against Nepal.
  • JULY 04, 2023 18:36Starting lineup for Kuwait:Abdulrahman Marzouq, Khaled Hajiah, Hasan Alanezi, Abdullah Albloushi, Sultan Alenezi, Ahmad Afnj Aldhefeery, Mohammad Abdullah, Shabaib Alkhaldi, Redha Abujabarah, Hamad Alqallaf, Mobarak Alfaneeni
  • JULY 04, 2023 18:31Confirmed starting lineup for India:
  • JULY 04, 2023 17:19Match PreviewIndia will look to clinch its ninth SAFF Championship title when it takes on Kuwait at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.The group-stage match between the sides last week had ended in 1-1 draw, a contest that was remembered more for the acrimony on the pitch than the quality of play. The expectation from the final is for the football to triumph. teams come into the summit clash having played a truckload of games; it will be India’s ninth in under a month and Kuwait’s sixth in the same timespan. The players also had to toil hard in their respective semifinals, needing 120 minutes and more to beat Lebanon and Bangladesh. Fatigue can be one of the deciding factors.But the chance to win silverware should lift the drooping shoulders, if any.Kuwait hasn’t secured a trophy since the 2010 Arabian Gulf Cup and a success here will help overcome the pain of losing an entire generation of footballers when FIFA suspended the nation for more than two years (October 2015 to December 2017).For India, a second winner’s medal in a one-month window will be a confidence-booster leading up to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. it hasn’t lost a match in four outings against good West Asian sides in Lebanon and Kuwait, and conceded only through an own goal, are noteworthy.Credit for that should go to India’s defence, which has kept nine clean-sheets from the last 10 matches. Even a rejigged backline, marshalled by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, held firm against Lebanon.There is thus a selection puzzle for the Indian think-tank to solve, but stand-in coach Mahesh Gawli’s exuded quiet confidence in Monday’s pre-match briefing, perhaps buttressed by the presence of some reasonably well-rested and quality defenders to choose from. his part, Kuwait coach Rui Bento was stoic and inexpressive. When he did speak, it was with pregnant pauses.But towards the end he seemed irritable when a scribe suggested that his side was “too physical” in the previous game against India. There was even a veiled dig at the hosts, as he hoped that “nobody puts pressure on the referee.”The rest of the cards will be laid on the table Tuesday evening.-N. Sudarshan

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