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The Afghan left-back backed his side to take down the Blue Tigers in the finals of the SAFF Championship...

GOALBY   AYUSH SRIVASTAVA     Follow @ayush_sri on twitter

Haroon Amiri seemed a relaxed man in the build-up to Wednesday’s final between Afghanistan and India.

The captain of the Lions of Khorasan was not keen to delve too deeply into India’s sketchy form in the group stages, and opined, “We know that every team has had so many problems.  We also had the same problem of not playing too well in the first three games. India also had the same problem as they did not play good football (in group stages) but in the semi-final they played better. Hence it was not a problem of only India but for all.”

While Maldives’ captain Ali Ashfaq had stated India is a weaker team than before, Amiri was more diplomatic and mentioned, “They deserved to be in the final and are a strong team in the SAFF Championship. We are not thinking of who is stronger or weaker (among competing nations).”

The win against the hosts Nepal was tempered by an injury to defender Farzad Ataee, who had a head injury and a minor heart-attack. When quizzed if this would be a big blow for the team, considering they had already lost two other central defenders in the build-up to the competition, the Mumbai FC player had some surprising news for the media contingent.

“Farzad is fine and he even practiced today. He was discharged yesterday morning and is now fine. He will be available for the final, as he is fit. Our first choice centre-backs were injured before the tournament. It might feel like it adds extra pressure in the team but we don’t think like that. We are all a part of the team and know that I can fill-in at centre-back if needed. Maybe someone else can also play in there.”

The defender revealed to Goal that a huge contingent of fans and politicians could be arriving from Afghanistan, for the game billed as the ‘revenge final’. However he tried to play down that tag, but maintained they were ready to take the title back home. He commented, “Its revenge of sports and not of countries.  Two years ago everyone felt bad and this time the players are ready physically (to win the tournament).”

Amiri also expressed his sympathies for Sunil Chhetri, after his counter-part was ruled out for the semi-final. However he did not want to focus on only one player before the title clash, and felt his team should rather concentrate on their strong points.

“I have played with Sunil so many times in India and he is a good player. I felt bad about him not playing in semi-final. But now he has had a good rest and is a very dangerous player. The entire India team is there and we shall focus on our game and not only on Sunil,” he concluded.


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