India seek crowning glory, Kenya stand in way
Mumbai: India will for the umpteenth time look up to the talismanic Sunil Chhetri and a stadium packed to the brim with emotionally-charged fans for inspiration as they face Kenya in the summit showdown of the Intercontinental Cup here on Sunday.
The world's third leading scorer, Chhetri have so far found the back of the net in each of the three games, including a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei and a brace against Kenya.
The tournament is being used by hosts India as a preparatory ground for the AFC Asian Cup, to be held in January next year, and a win in the final will surely boost their confidence going ahead.
India had blanked Kenya 3-0 in the league game at the Mumbai Football Arena, which was skipper Chhetri's 100th appearance in national colours. And the India captain made the game memorable by scoring a brace.
They will look to replicate the performance of their league game against the African side again in the summit clash, which the organisers have claimed to be a 'sold out' match.
The hosts are the side to beat this tournament as they have throughout played an aggressive brand of football.
But the Stephen Constantine coached team cannot take Kenya lightly as they have defeated New Zealand 2-1 and blanked Chinese Taipei 4-0 Friday night.
Constantine will ensure that his best playing XI will take the field Sunday after his strategy of making seven changes initially in the game against New Zealand backfired as the team lost 2-1.
For India, all eyes will again be on Chhetri, who has 62 goals to his credit and will look to add to his tally.
He and the experienced Jeje Lalpekhlua can pose challenge to any strong defense and Kenya's would be no exception.
India also boast of an array of decent midfielders like Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Pranay Halder and Halicharan Narzary.
They will have to play their roles to perfection if the physically strong Kenyan strikers are to be tamed.
At the back, India have experienced defenders like Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal. Add to it the likes of Subhasish Bose, and the hosts can make Kenya's life pretty difficult.
And goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who was benched in the last game, will be back in action. He will have to surely be at his best.
On the other hand, Kenya would have bolstered their confidence after they drubbed Chinese Taipei, and will look to spoil India's party.
Kenya coach Sebastian Migne would want his two main strikers — Ovella Ochieng and Pistone Mutamba — to go all guns blazing.
While Kenya will seek to take revenge of their humiliating loss in the league stage, the home team will look to end the tournament that witnessed an outpouring of emotions after Chhetri's impassioned plea asking fans to turn up for India games, on a positive note.
GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith.
DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Lalruatthara, Narayan Das, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Subhasish Bose.
MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa, Pronay Halder, Md. Rafique, Halicharan Narzary, Laldanmawia Ralte.
FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Alen Deory.
Match starts at 8 PM.