'The match is against Maldives and not Ali Ashfaq' - Subrata Paul

The Indian goalkeeper doesn't agree that India's performance at the SAFF Championship so far has been far from satisfactory...
Subrata Paul, the Indian goalkeeper stressed that the team is not at all afraid of the heroics of Ali Ashfaq, the prolific Maldives striker, who has already scored a whopping 10 goals in the tournament.

"It will be a match between India and Maldives. Our 11 players will fight it out with their 11 players. There is nothing special about Ashfaq," said Subrata.

"It will be a different match altogether. We have already played 3 matches and the team has started to settle. Yes, they have scored 18 goals so far and are a tough opponent, but the knock-out round is totally different. In any tournament, the semi-final is always the toughest match. It will not be appropriate to predict much. India is always the favourite in SAFF. Let's wait and watch what happens on the field," a cautious Subrata remarked.

The Indian custodian also refused that their past victories against their semifinal opponents will give them a psychological advantage.

"Yes, we have defeated them in the recent past. But I don't think that will be an advantage. It will be a fresh start for both the sides,"he opined.

The SAFF Championship is missing from Paul's trophy cabinet, but he remarked that it will not be an added motivation for him to win the bragging rights this time. "Playing football for the country is the only motivation for me. I will try to give my 100% as usual."

The Indian custodian however conceded that the absence of Sunil Chhetri due to suspension will be a big loss to the team.

"There is no point denying that Sunil is the best Indian striker presently. It is a big loss for the team, but we have to accept it and look forward to the match. The replacements will be equally eager to prove their mettle. They are also good players. Let's look forward to the match," he mentioned.

He also stressed that India's performance in the group stages wasn't below par.

"We have not played bad football. It's only that our weak points are being highlighted. Yes, we have wasted chances in front of the opponent goal. But I think many of the questions raised will be answered by team in the semi-final match," he signed off.

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