SAFF U16 Final to be thrilling Indo-Pak Affair [FPDC Preview]

The inaugural SAFF U16 Football Championship 2011, taking place in Nepal, could not have asked for a better finale than a final clash between eternal rivals Pakistan and India today 10 August 2011 at 3 PM (Nepal Time) at Dasarath Rangsala Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal with our friends at providing us with ample coverage.

Anything involving a Pakistan-India encounter, even if it be for an obscure game of checkers, is bound to generate intense interest from the people of both countries as well as neutral observers. The SAFF U16 Cup has seen Pakistan and India come out to be the best sides of the tournament by posting some thrilling results in the games played so far.

The youthful Pakistan U16 side has been a true revelation by showcasing some exhilarating football as it squeezed past a shell-shocked India 1-0 and them hammered Maldives 6-0 in the group stages, before leaving it late to shatter Bangladesh 2-0 in the semi-finals to reach the final. Imposing striker Mansoor Khan and creative winger Sher Ali have definitely been Pakistan’s best players by creating and scoring important chances, including having a hand in Muhammad Bilal’s 4 goal haul against Maldives. Mansoor Khan’s goal rocked India and his 25 yard screamer in 89th minute against Bangladesh in the semis all but broke the Bengali hearts in a cagey encounter. Credit also goes to defender and captain Muneer as well as goalkeeper Usman Khan for not conceding a single goal the entire tournament so far, though they will once again have to be at their top game against a determined India who will look to settle an old score.

Coaches Sajjad Mehmood and Hassan Baloch deserve praise for making a fighting unit despite the setbacks they faced in preparations, especially since the PFF cancelled the important National U16 Championship prior to the SAFF U16 Cup. They have shown their worth as being able coaches for youths for last many years, esp. Hassan Baloch who has been involved with many of the current U16 squad since their U13 days. Pakistan will be going to the final in confident mood, but they will be aware that they can never take the Indian side lightly and will be on their toes and repeat the heroics of the group stage again.

India on the other hand, were stunned by Pakistan’s 1-0 win in the tournament opener and came close to equalising many times but could not overcome the deficit at the end. The result made India go extra hard and forced themselves to the final after hammering Maldives 5-0, and going a man down themselves in the process, before fighting hard from a goal down to edge past a gallant Nepal side cheered on by the home crowd 4-2 on penalties after a stunning equaliser seconds before final whistle.

India will be looking to reverse the shock of the opening day, and certainly have the guns to back themselves. Their much better preparations before the tournament with impressive tours abroad, and in put from their foreign coaching staff means they were the overwhelming favourites before the tournament began. But the Pakistan loss has made them rethink their strategy, and certainly ruffled a few feathers in the camp. However, India have reached the final the hard way and are looking forward to prove the previous wrongs right.

All in all, both sides will be expecting a tense cagey game, where maybe just one goal would be enough to separate the two. Despite Nepal’s exit in the semis, a good crowd is to be expected in the final with many Nepalese openly siding with Pakistan and expecting the green guns to avenge Nepal’s loss. Hopefully, tomorrow will be an amazing football encounter between the two eternal rivals.

Will India get sweet revenge on Pakistan for their group stage shocker, or will Pakistan dig deep and complete their fairy tale progress in this tournament?

Only one way to find out!