|THE STARTING XI
Standing between the two posts, Subrata Paul was the only shot stopper who put in dauntless performances. He never looked jittery and was consistently gallant to come off his line for collecting the balls played in from crosses or corners. He made some excellent saves throughout the tournament and almost had his heart in his mouth when Thierry Makon missed the final penalty for The Local Lions.
There were several times when teams played only with three defenders but few were as effective as the Cameroonian captain, Paul Bebey Kingue. He adapted well with alternate modifications of a right back and a central defender. The first few games witnessed an attacking role from him and he ventured forward more than any other compatriot playing in the same position. The wingers whose duty was to torment him saw just the opposite happen.
For the central defender's role we have Gouramangi Moirangthem of India. He was responsible for opening India's proceedings in the final and was rock solid throughout the tournament. He hardly put a foot wrong and was a towering figure in all the matches he played for India prior to the finals. The forwards saw various avenues shutting for them including situations when Gouramangi made last ditched tackles.
The last defender whose performance catches the eye is India's left back Syed Rahim Nabi. He has indeed been The Blue Tigers' most consistent player in the tournament. His swiftness countered the pace of several wingers and the fact that Cameroon's Ashu Tambe had a forgettable performance compared to Nabi's unforgettable display is surely a manifestation of that. The art he applied on the final day was outstanding and in attestation he was awarded the Man of the Match.
On the right wing we have Syria's Ala Alshbli. He was unquestionably The Red Eagles' most inspiring figure on the pitch in the tournament. He consistently scored for his national outfit but was unlucky not to see his team sail through into the finals. He was surely one of the better players in the competition and opposition teams would often field two players to mark him.
The heart of every game for Cameroon was without a doubt Kingue Mpondo. Not only did his passes minister goals for his squad but he took the matter into his own hands on four occasions. He started back-to-back attacks and was definitely the most important cardinal in helping Cameroon qualify for the final game of the tournament.
The other central midfielder who was brilliant on and off the ball is Lenny Rodrigues. His performance in the group stages was handpicked by the Cameroon coach Emmanuel Bosso who believed that Lenny had an important role to pillage Cameroon's party. His work-rate was uncommon throughout the tournament as he did both, attack and track back for defensive duty.
On the left wing we have Cameroon's Joseph Momasso. Even though the tournament didn't boast of top quality players but Momasso is definitely a player who could shine at the European stage. His post-haste acceleration left many defenders trailing in his wake. He continuously cut in to take shots and with his trickery managed decent crosses inside the penalty box.
A more attacking and central position is offered to Ali Ashfaq of Maldives. He assisted the winner for the Red Snappers which sent Syria packing. He was the talisman of his squad and being the captain he led from the front. He showed great pace, skill and vision with the ball throughout the tournament and almost took his team to the zenith. He might not have not scored or assisted goals as many as he ought to but he was definitely an important ally in every build up.
The strikeforce includes Ebanga Bertin who added another charm to the competition. His performance on the ultimate day was fragile but that is certainly incongruent with his earlier displays. With four goals to his name he certainly proved to be the most natural striker in the tournament. He made some excellent overlapping runs and proved to be a nightmare for every defender.
The other striker without any shadow of doubt is the Indian captain Sunil Chhetri. If you could get the ball to him, he could get the team to score. He was required to continue his good start to the tournament in the Final and he did not disappoint. He made an excellent run beating the Cameroon stronghold that ended with his side being awarded a penalty which he converted in calm fashion to equalise for his squad.
|PLAYERS THAT REQUIRE SPECIAL MENTION
1. Mehtab Hussain - He found new life in the tournament, as it progressed. He was our Top of the Match on one occasion and had a tremendous final. He quickly closed down opposition players, intercepted dangerous passes and broke up several counter attacks.
2. Thierry Makon - He was given a more attacking role as a midfielder and he was at the forefront of several Cameroon attacks. His quick passes and pace helped him combine well with the difference makers in Joseph Momasso and Kingue Mpondo.
3. Mohammad Arif - The Maldives squad would have been incomplete without Mohammad Arif. He was one of our 'players to watch out for' before the start of the tournament. Although a little more was expected of him but it was clear who the boss of the Maldives midfield was. He can be remembered for being absolutely patient while on the ball and then manage to pick out an inch perfect pass.
4. Ali Ghiloum - He was another tenacious player for Syria. He was under the spotlight for every dead ball situation Syria indulged in and he ticked his squad with some excellent through balls and crosses from the wings.
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