India vs Pakistan: Preview and Prediction
The stage of the 2023 SAFF Championship will erupt on an inaugural day as one of the most intense sporting rivalries in the world is set to take place. It’s time for the world’s most popular sport to witness the Great Indo-Pak rivalry where the stakes will be too high for both neighborhood rivals.
The Blue Tigers are turning up for the sub-confederation challenge after outclassing another Asian giant Lebanon to accomplish the Intercontinental Cup glory. They have acclaimed the honor of being the most decorated side in this tournament having made it to the finals 12 out of 13 times and gracing the champions’ podium eight times. In the most recent SAFF Championship edition, India’s six-year wait for regional glory finally came to an end as they defeated Nepal which was making their maiden finale appearance.
Pakistan, the green powerhouse of cricket and other popular games has always struggled to put up a strong fight in the footballing battle of the Indian subcontinent. Despite hosting the inaugural season and participating in each and every edition, the Pak Shaheens have never made it to the final doom of this competition. A thriving campaign in the 1997 edition at Nepal still stands as their best performance till the date as they finished third for the first and only time.
The recent successful Intercontinental Cup campaign has boosted the Blue Tigers’ confidence for the forthcoming challenge of defending the sub-confederation title. India topped the group stages winning two and settling down for a draw in the final group fixture and then went on to outperform Lebanon to complete their Invincible run. The defensive department received the majority of the credit for the triumph after not allowing any opposition to net a goal against them in the entire tournament.
On the other hand, Pakistan also participated in a four-nation tournament in order to prepare for the South Asian battlefield. Mauritius, Kenya, and Djibouti were the three opponents Shahzad Anwar’s green boys squared off in the first half of June 2023 although they ended up losing all of them. Their most recent appearance was against the 193-ranked African nation Djibouti against whom the Pak Shaheens managed to score one goal but still couldn’t turn the tides in a 3-1 saga.
These two arch-rivals have shared the same football battlefield 25 times till the date including 8 in India, 5 in Pakistan and 12 at the neutral venues. The Blue Tigers are expectedly leading the head-to-head record with 15 triumphs and 37 goals with a win percentage of 60. Meanwhile, Pakistan has managed to emerge victorious on only three odd occasions against their neighbors while their most recent was a 3-0 win back in 2005 at Lahore.
The first-ever Indo-Pak clash at the international stage was recorded six years after their independence, back in the 1953 Colombo Cup. It was the final battle which resulted in a goalless 0-0 draw as both of the combatants ended up as inaugural joint-winners of the quadrangular tournament.
The most recent chapter of this bittering rivalry was staged in the 2018 edition of the SAFF Championship when India knocked out Pakistan to barge into the finals. Manvir Singh’s brace and a late strike from Sumit Passi played an instrumental role in the gaffer Stephen Constantine and his boys’ prowess of dominantly winning the semi-final battle by 3-1. The Green Falcons managed to reduce the losing deficit after the veteran forward Muhammad Ali’s 88th-minute strike but it was still not enough to keep them alive in the competition.
Pakistan team’s arrival in India has been delayed owing to the visa issue however, the Green Falcons are still expected to appear on time. The 45-year-old Pakistani gaffer Shahzad Anwar is known for his compact defensive tactics and is keen to register his first-ever managerial victory with the national team since joining in 2022. Anwar has recently attracted a lot of Pakistan-origin foreigners to don the Green outfits as the stars like Otis Khan, Abdul Samad Arshad and Easah Suliman play a pivotal role in his tactical buildup.
Igor Stimac has now entrusted the 4-2-3-1 formation for a long time and is also developing the results with the triumphs over higher-ranked nations. The 55-year-old Croatian gaffer is expected to not make any major changes in his starting eleven, especially after an emphatic win over Lebanon. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu may get rested for the initial games to manage his workload as another Punjabi talisman Amrinder Singh is likely to step up to guard the Indian goalline.
Predicted Starting XIs
India (4-2-3-1): Amrinder Singh; Nikhil Poojary, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra; Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa; Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad, Aashique Kuruniyan; Sunil Chhetri
Pakistan (5-3-2): Saqib Hanif; Abdullah Shah, Easah Suliman, Abdullah Iqbal, Mohammad Sufyan Ali Khan; Ali Uzair, Rahis Nabi, Harun Hamid; Otis Khan, Abdul Samad Arshad
India is the ultimate favorite to win this contest after outclassing their neighborhood rivals in key aspects such as on-paper strength, head-to-head record and current form. They lifted the Intercontinental Cup in Odisha just a couple of days ago while the Green Falcons failed to register even a single win at the four-nation tournament.
The Blue Tigers’ defense department has not conceded an international goal since June 2022 hence it is going to be very tough for Pakistan which lacks scoring charm against the quality opposition.