New Year for Indian Sports started on a high as hosts India shocked the defending Champion Afghanistan to win their 7th SAFF Championship avenging their 2013 finals defeat. 166th ranked India emerged better than 150th ranked Afghans at Trivandrum as captain Sunil Chhetri became the 46th player in the world to score 50 International goals. Besides the $50,000 prize money for winner, Indians were also awarded a bonus of $50,000 by AIFF.
Best Player: Sunil Chhetri
Top Scorer: Khaibar Amani (4 goals), 3 goals: Faysal Shayesteh (Afghanistan), Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sunil Chhetri (India)
Total Matches: 12
Goals Scored: 41
Teams: 7 (India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal)
Road To Final
Afghans entered the finals trouncing 3 teams, while India reached the finals with three convincing wins.
Afghanistan trounced Ban 4-0, Bhutan 3-0 at group, and Sri Lanka 5-0 in semis.
India def Sri Lanka 2-0, Nepal 4-1 at group, and Maldives 3-2 in semis.
India win 2-1 in Extra Time
While like semifinals, Captain Chhetri and Jeje were the scorers for India, the hero of the final was goalkeeper Gurpreet who saved multiple attacks by Afghanistan players.
Indians coming from behind won the tournament 2-1 in the extra time. First half was goal-less, thanks to the efforts of Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet. Afghanistan took the lead in 72nd minute through the field goal from Zubair. Within 4 minutes, the hero of semifinals Jeje earned India the equaliser. As both were tied 1-1, the extra time saw the decider in 101st minute as Captain Chhetri scored his 50th International goal and the tournament winner for India.
7th Title in 10 Finals of 11 Appearances for India
India added 7th title after winning the championships in 1993, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2009 and 2011. India, with Nepal and Srilanka, has played all the 11 SAFF Championships, and only in 2003 failed to enter the finals, when they avenged group match loss to defeat Pakistan 2-1 and finish third. They had lost the semifinals to Bangladesh 1-2 in sudden death.
Indian Squad for the tournament:
Coach: Stephen Constantine (England)
Goalkeepers: Gurpeet Singh Sandhu, Subrata Pal, Karanjit Singh
Defenders: Aiborlang Khongjee, Arnab Mondal, Augustin Fernandes, Lalchhuan Mawia, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das
Midfielders: Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Bikash Jairu, Rowllin Borges, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Pronay Halder, Sanju Pradhan
Forwards: Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri (Captain), Jeje Lalpekhlua, Holicharan Narzary