Intercontinental Cup: India, Lebanon Brace For ‘Battle Of Kalinga’ At Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar: After some intense and high-quality action over a week, the stage is set for the grand finale of Intercontinental Cup.
Hosts India and Lebanon, both unbeaten in the tournament so far, clash at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday evening in pursuit of the glittering trophy.
The two evenly-matched sides – Lebanon’s FIFA ranking is 99, India are at 101 — have already faced each other, in the last round-robin league fixture two nights ago.
India, having already qualified for the final with wins over Mongolia and Vanuatu, dominated exchanges and created a handful of opportunities before settling for a goalless result.
Coach Igor Stimac will be hoping that his wards don’t leave behind their scoring boots when they step out to win the ‘Battle of Kalinga’ in 24 hours’ time.
India still depend a lot on their talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri, who is pushing 39. Rested in Thursday’s game before being brought in as a late substitute, Chhetri will look to score early in the final.
Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and central defender Sandesh Jhingan are the other experienced players Stimac will bank on.
The pace and enterprise of youngsters Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa and Rahim Ali will also test the Lebanese defence.
There will be an added incentive for the ‘Blue Tigers’, who are looking to break into the top of world’s top 100.
The Indian team achieved its best-ever FIFA ranking of 94 way back in 1996, and Stimac’s boys will look to lay the foundation for bettering that at Kalinga Stadium.