Nickname – Red Snappers
FIFA Ranking – 161
Coach – Istvan Urbanyi
The Hungarian is in his second spell as the head coach of the island nation’s football team and will be well versed with the conditions in India, having been the coach of the Maldives side that took part in the SAFF Championships late last year.
The former Hungary International, played for a host of clubs in his homeland like BP Honved and Gyori ETO, before retiring as a player. He then took on a coaching role BKV Elore in Hungary in 2002 and then Ujpest FC, before taking over at the helm of the Red Snappers for 2009-10, a position he was re-appointed to in 2011, after a brief spell elsewhere.
|12 Mar 12||Maldives||0-2||Palestine|
|10 Mar 12||Maldives||1-0||Nepal|
|8 Mar 12||Maldives||1-3||Turkmenistan|
|24 Feb 12||Maldives||0-3||Thailand|
|9 Dec 11||Maldives||1-3||India|
The Red Snappers have not been in the best of forms in 2012, having suffered losses against Turkmenistan and Palestine, losing by a two goal margin to both sides, with a 1-0 win over Nepal being the lone bright spot this calendar year. Maldives also lost a friendly encounter against Thailand in the build-up to the AFC Challenge Cup, losing 3-0.
In their last competitive match of 2011, they had lost 3-1 to India in the SAFF Championships, a result which knocked them out of the tournament.
They are ranked 161st in the FIFA rankings, having risen by three places in the last rating.
TACTICS, STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Urbanyi has built his side on a typical East European platform of solid organization in defense, preferring to have more players helping out at the back. Their attacking play is based more on the counter, with the expansive playmaking skills of Mohd. Arif and the movement and penetration offered by Ali Ashfaq being key to their hopes of getting on the scoresheet. Mohd. Hussain Niyaz provides the legs in midfield and is generally expected to get ahead and link-up with Ashfaq while Mohd. Umair provides width and trickery to the side.
Mohd. Imran's experience in goal and the positional sense of defensive rock Abdul Akram provide security at the back for the side. Ahmed Shafiu's role as a rampaging wing-back will also be crucial to the side's hopes in the competition, though he might be asked to focus more on his defensive duties by Urbanyi, who did not have the chance to stamp his mark on the side during the SAFF Championships in 2011, when he had only recently taken over the side. However this time, having had a few months to prepare this side, he willhave no excuses to hide behind, if his side does not do well.
Up against several more fancied sides, one cannot expect a big change in their playing style during the Nehru Cup, though a lack of pressure might see them come out all guns blazing.
The Red Snappers are, as mentioned above, heavily reliant on Ali Ashfaq upfront. The rest of the attacking line-up is expected to complement him with quick and incisive movement and passing. The side also has a good mixture of youth and experience this time round, something that could work for the team, as they would not be carrying the baggage of past failures.
However the one major negative of the side is it’s lack of fitness, with the side visibly tiring in later parts of the game, something that has seen them concede a lot of goals in the second half. Lack of physical prowess upfront is another worry and up against teams with superb stamina, such limitations could be punished in a lethal fashion.
Ali Ashfaq – By now the striker is a well known figure even in India, having taken the SAFF Championship by storm in 2011. The player, who once rejected a chance to train with Benfica, is an absolute powerhouse upfront, with his movement, pace and trickery making him a handful for any side to deal with.
The striker, nicknamed the “Iron Man” by his supporters back home, also is the captain of the side and leads his nation from the front with his never say die attitude.
Mohammad Arif – While Ashfaq often runs away with all the plaudits, Arif is often described as the engine of this Maldives side, with his power and vision being central to Urbanyi’s hopes to dominate their rivals in the centre of the park. The high point of his career of course was the 2008 SAFF Championship, in which he played a pivotal role as Maldives went on to win the trophy.
CHANCES OF WINNING THE NEHRU CUP - 1/5
While Maldives have improved slightly over the past few years, the 2008 SAFF Championship victory remains the high point of the nation as a footballing side. At the Nehru Cup, up against higher ranked sides and the hosts India, the chances of the Red Snappers adding to their tally of tournaments won are remote.
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