Defending champions India are under pressure going into their second SAFF Cup Group A match against minnows Bhutan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi later today. India suffered a surprise opening day draw against Afghanistan, while Bhutan had lost 0-3 against Sri Lanka.
And if India does not want to go into their final group match against Sri Lanka with a possible must win situation, then a win against Bhutan is a necessity. But the last time the two sides had met in the 2008 SAFF Cup semifinals in Male India had to dig deep to overcome Bhutan 2-1 in extra-time. It needed an injury time winner in extra-time from defender Gouramangi Singh to seal a win.
But last time around in 2009 in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka Bhutan were the wipping boys of the tournament having conceded 17 goals in three matches and their bad run seemed to continue on Saturday with the 3-0 defeat against Sri Lanka.
Savio Medeira had taken a conservative approach in the first game using tried-and-tested players - Mahesh Gawli, Samir Naik, Climax Lawrence - rather then risking to give the youngsters - Nirmal Chetri, Jewel Raja Sheikh, Lalrindika Ralte - a chance. This has come in for heavy criticism, then whoever the South Asian opponent an Indian team should be able to beat them.
Now Samir Naik looks a doubtful starter due to an injury with Nirmal Chetri a possible option; but one will have to see what changes, if any Savio makes to his starting eleven.
Interestingly India had also drawn their opening match against Bangladesh in the 1999 SAFF Cup held in Goa. Thereafter they went on to win the tournament. Hopefully a similarity to 2011.
But one thing is for sure. Only three points against Bhutan count for India today otherwise the SAFF Cup could be over faster then anyone would have thought...
The match kicks-off at 18.00 IST and will be live on TenAction+.