'India peaked at the right time' - Henry Menezes elated with Blue Tigers' SAFF Championship triumph


India clinched their eighth SAFF Championship title with a convincing 3-0 win over Nepal on Saturday at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives.

The Blue Tigers remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. After a tough start to their campaign where they drew 1-1 and 0-0 against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Igor Stimac's side won their next two matches against Nepal and Maldives to reach the final where outclassed their opposition.

Former India international goalkeeper Henry Menezes expressed his happiness over India's triumph in Maldives and praised the Blue Tigers for the comeback.

What did Henry Menezes say?

"India is a strong team (amongst the SAFF nations), there's no doubt about that. It was about entertainment versus strategy. The fans want entertainment and simultaneously results. It is not possible every time. As it is, the team is coming out on the back of a pandemic that has disrupted the football calendar.

"Fortunately, we have experienced players that eased the tension after the first two matches (in SAFF). We peaked at the right time and we were never afraid of losing, so we dominated in all matches. From drawing against Sri Lanka to being the champions we have shown that we can turn things around," said the former India international goalkeeper.

India vs Nepal, SAFF Championship 2021

Menezes hailed captain Sunil Chhetri's leadership as he suggested that the forward made the difference for India in the tournament.

He said, "Sunil Chhetri once again made the difference in the tournament. In the final also his opening goal was crucial. So, in the end, there is no doubt which is the strongest nation. The results did not come in the beginning but with that, the tactics changed and we played better in the next matches. Apart from India, Nepal was the strongest and we beat them formidably. Collectively India were fantastic.

"I was a bit concerned about the defence that it can collapse at any point, but they showed character and came up strong. The two goals in quick succession also helped them to get more confidence. The path was shown by Chhetri once again and the youngsters also complemented him very well. India will only grow stronger from here."

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Menezes expressed his concern over the lack of game time of Indian players and wants the national team to play as many games as possible. 

"The lack of matches is a concern for the national team. Also the pandemic complicated things. We don't know what is going to happen next. But ISL is coming and the players will get match practice. That is the most important thing. If we get to play more friendlies, nothing like it. Even if we play against SAFF nations, it will be a great thing," said Menezes.

The qualifiers for the Asian Cup is slated to get underway in 2022.