Five nations SAFF Championship 2021, considered as South Asian version of football world cup is now delicately poised with four teams apart from Sri Lanka still have opportunity for making the final.
Nepal with 6 points winning two leads the pack. They have to play against India and Bangladesh. If they win any of the two matches they would play in the final. Bangladesh standing at second on the table with 4 points from 3 matches has one must win match against India. A win against Nepal would put them in a position where goal difference would a factor for playing in the final. Hold Maldives playing two matches has 3 points. They have matches against India and Sri Lanka. A win and at least another point from the other match would give them an opportunity. India has 2 points from two drawn matches. They have two more matches against Nepal and Maldives. They have to win both to quality. Sri Lanka has 1 point from three matches is already out of the race. But they have the situation of the tournament favorite India difficult snatching a point from them.
Bangladesh after winning against Sri Lanka by a solitary goal against Sri Lanka through a penalty smartly taken by Topu Barman played exceedingly well against India holding to a 1-1 draw. This was a great match for them as they were training at the breather (0-1) from a goal conceded for defense lapse letting goal shark Sunil Chetry unmarked. Their situation became extremely difficult in the second half when defender Biswanath Ghosh got marching order early in the second half . Playing brave football with 10 men Bangladesh stunned India scoring through Yasin Arafat by a smartly taken off the flick from Saduddin from a corner taken by Jamal Bhuiyan. Bangladesh however, lost 2-0 to the home team Maldives who however was shocked in the first match by Nepal 1-0. Bangladesh looked tired and listless in that match dominated by skillful host. Theoretically Bangladesh still has a chance of making the final. But for that they have to win in their last match against Nepal. They may not easy as the Himalayan team Nepal appears as the team of the tournament so far.
Many aspirant Bangladeshis after their good show against India thought that Bangladesh playing well against Maldives would at least secure a point. But to articulate it correctly hosts looked superior and way better. Bangladesh was simply outplayed. Bangladesh not only lost easily but got as many as 5 yellow cards. Off course playing 3 matches in 7 days Bangladesh looked out of steam in the second half. But in all three matches Bangladesh looked ordinary in the attack particularly in goal scoring. Their passing were not accurate and could not hold the ball long enough to give breathing time to the defense. They looked enterprising. But with that it is possible playing well in one or two matches. But cannot make a team consistent in a major tournament. In such situation it will not be easy winning in the last match against Nepal playing strongly in the tournament. But with additional days rest Bangladesh can give its best in that match.
The two top teams would go to the final. Nepal looks more or less assured unless they play terribly in their matches against India and Bangladesh. They need somehow squeezing at least a point. Maldives in my opinion is the other team which a bright opportunity. They looked very organized and fluent. They would play against Sri Lanka and India.
India is now in tight leash. Two draws against Bangladesh and Sr Lanka have put them in uncertain position. Their two matches are against the stronger sides Nepal and Maldives. India does not look like the team that was tagged tournament favorite. They have to play out of their skins to play in the finals. At this moment it looks very unlikely. Anyway, the picture would be somewhat clear after matches on 10th and absolutely clear after 13th October. Let us hope that Bangladesh can scrap through. Playing in the final would give a big boost to Bangladesh football.
BDST: 1203 HRS, OCT 09, 2021