After a rapturous performance, Maldives are on the brink of a semi-final berth; though Bhutan will do all they can to be a pointed thorn in their way...
It started out as a tight match, but with the sending off, Maldives found ten extra gears to romp to a 10-0 victory, a tournament record against the brave reds of Sri Lanka. Now, in their way stands Bhutan by beating whom Maldives could qualify for the semi-finals of the competition, a feat they achieved last time around.
“I was happy about the result. I was excited that lots of goals were scored,” said a surprised but joy emanating coach, Istavan Urbanyi.
What is now a result of the victory is that Maldives have been knocked forward as group favourites for the top position. Some fancy them to go all the way to the finals of the competition.
Thanking his lucky stars the coach added, ”I was a bit lucky we had our training camp in Bangkok, Thailand and I had a chance to see Sri Lanka practice and formulated my game plan on it.”
Ali Ashfaq, who set two independent records, by becoming the highest scorer ever for the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship and the highest individual scorer in the tournament match, was showered with praise by the coach.
“This is an extra-ordinary performance by him. I appreciate the performance. Generally speaking this was a team performance,” highlighted the coach.
Adding that his team weren’t entirely flawless, Urbanyi added, “In the first match I saw a lot of weaknesses and a lot of things need to be changed.”
Maldives won the competition in 2008 and finishing as runner-up a record three times.
Their opponents next time around are relative minnows Bhutan, who have only one semi-final appearance to show for their efforts in this competition.
Losing three goals to zero in their opening Group ‘B’ fixture to Afghanistan wouldn’t have uplifted their morale in anyway, though it is certain lots of people have praised them for their stubborn performance.
Bhutan’s Japanese coach Kazunori Ohara will have no time to ponder and like his counterpart he has to address flaws in his team.
Bhutan will not roll over and let Maldives to go through, as they will play tough.
Might not be one for the ages but a tactical battle that ensues might be interesting.
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