Indian Men’s Football Team Clinches SAFF Championship 2023 Title in Dramatic Penalty Shootout

At the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday, the Indian men’s football team defeated Kuwait 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout to claim the SAFF Championship 2023 title.

India, currently ranked 100th in the FIFA rankings, won the SAFF Championship 2023 for the ninth time in its history. After winning the Intercontinental Cup last month, India now has two consecutive victories in sporting events.   

The game was decided on penalties after regulation time concluded with a score of 1-1 and neither team was able to score in overtime. In sudden death, Kuwait’s captain Hajjeia missed the crucial penalty kick.

Lallianzuala Chhangte, the newly named AIFF Player of the Year, tied the score for India in the final minute of regulation after Shabaib Al Khaldi had given Kuwait’s football team the lead earlier in the period (14′).

Igor Stimac, the head coach of India, made three alterations to the starting eleven from the semifinal match against Lebanon. Stimac was prohibited from being on the field and had to watch the game from the stands. Full-backs Akash Mishra and Nikhil Poojary made their comebacks, and Sandesh Jhingan, who had been suspended for the previous game, took Mehtab Singh’s position at the centre of the defence.

India, who was using a four-man defence, got off to a cautious start and used counterattacks. In the meantime, Kuwait pressed hard and launched incisive crosses and through-balls into the Indian half of the field. Shabaib Al Khaldi gave the visitors the early advantage a quarter into the game.

To give Kuwait a 1-0 lead, Al Feneeni dribbled into the Indian half and cut the pass back for an open Shabaib Al Khaldi in the box. Shabaib Al Khaldi then shot the ball past the Indian goalkeeper.

India, which was down a goal, pushed its players forward in an effort to draw even. Minutes later, the hosts had a wonderful chance to tie the game, but Mubarak Marzouq saved Lallianzuala Chhangte’s long-range attempt.

India gained confidence as the game went on and launched waves of assaults towards Kuwait’s side. During one such move, the hosts were able to equalise. Sunil Chhetri received the ball after Ashique Kuruniyan won possession of it in the Kuwaiti half. Lallianzuala Chhangte scored to tie the score at 1-1 after receiving a weighted through ball from the captain of the Indian football squad.

The scores were tied 1-1 at the end of the first half.  

Nikhil Pooojary and Lallianzuala Chhangte collaborated on the right and made overlapping runs down the flank early in the second half in an effort to find Sunil Chhetri. Any threats were, however, avoided by Kuwait’s vigilant defence.

In the 62nd minute, India had a wonderful chance to take the lead in the game when Sunil Chhetri headed Kuwait goalkeeper Mubarak Marzouq’s kick back towards Lallianzuala Chhangte. The Kuwaiti goalkeeper, however, easily blocked the Mizoram player’s feeble attempt at the net.

The game became aggressive as time passed, and the referee was issuing yellow cards to players on both sides.

Mohammad Abdhulla intercepted a throw-in with minutes remaining in regular time, sending the ball soaring towards the Indian goal, but an alert Gurpreet Singh Sandhu produced a spectacular save to prevent the visitors from scoring.

The match had to go into overtime since the scores were tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time.

Both teams had numerous opportunities to win the game in extra time, but neither was able to score the winning goal. As a result, the game went into an exciting penalty shootout, which India won.       

The Indian football team finished the group stage with victories against Pakistan and Nepal while drawing with Kuwait, and they then defeated Lebanon in the semifinals to get to the championship game.
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