Category: Intercontinental Cup 2018

Korea DPR edge Tajikistan to crown Intercontinental Cup champions

AHMEDABAD: DPR Korea were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 winners as they completed a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan in the final on Friday (July 19, 2019) at the EKA Arena, Ahmedabad. It was a second-half strike from substitute Pak Hyon Il that made the difference on the night and sealed the win for his team.

The first half began with DPR Korea dominating proceedings and enjoying more possession and chances. However, they could not make them count as both teams entered the break with the scoreline goalless and DPR Korea’s skipper Jong Il Gwan coming closest to finding the net in the 20th minute.

After some fine build-up play down the right, Ri Hyong Jin launched a powerful effort from distance that was spilled by Tajikistan custodian Rustam Yatimov. Gwan latched on to the rebound but his first-time effort went wide of the goal.

The Koreans continued to press for the opener and almost got it in the second minute of added time in the first half. Once again, it was Gwan who connected with a cross from the right but was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Tajikistan started posing a few threats of their own in the second half, the first of which came through Sheriddin Boboev, whose curling effort from 25 yards out in the 51st minute just went past the post.

Eight minutes later, Komron Tursonov showed some quick thinking to fashion a chance for his side but his shot was turned away past the post by DPR Korea keeper An Tae Song.

It was DPR Korea that continued to look more dangerous and they finally made their dominance count as substitute Pak Hyon Il opened the scoring in the 71st minute. Latching on to a pass inside the box from Gwan, Pak fired in a shot that deflected off a defender and looped over the keeper and into the net.

Five minutes from time, Tajikistan had a golden chance to equalise, but were denied by the woodwork. A free-kick from the right found substitute Tokhir Maladustov’s head but his effort hit the crossbar and went back into play, with the rebound going shot wide.

The Koreans saw out the game and as a result, they were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 champions – winning a sum of $50,000 for the same. Tajikistan finished in the runners-up spot, which fetched them $25,000. DPR Korea skipper Jong Il Gwan was named the Hero of the Tournament for his three goals in the competition, as well as the match-winning assist in the final. He was awarded a sum of $7,500.

In the post-match press conference, DPR Korea head coach Yun Jong Su hailed the Hero Intercontinental Cup as a “beautiful tournament”. He said, “We are grateful to AIFF for organising this beautiful tournament. The confidence of winning is always so positive. Despite the triumph, we need to work on certain areas. The beauty of the Hero Intercontinental Cup was that we now also know our shortcomings.”

Tajikistan head coach Usman Toshev stated that the result was a “big lesson” for his side ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. He said, “We congratulate DPR Korea on the victory. Looking back, I feel we lacked the stamina. However, this was a big lesson for us ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.”

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Syria hold India 1-1

AHMEDABAD: The Indian National Team drew 1-1 against Syria in their last match of the 2019 Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad today (July 16, 2019) to finish their Hero Intercontinental Cup campaign.

18-year-old Narender Ghelot’s 51st-minute header was cancelled out by Firas Al-Khatib’s 78th-minute penalty kick as both teams shared the spoils of the battle, in a match largely involving end-to-end action where both teams had a number of chances.

The Blue Tigers started the match on an attacking note and Udanta Singh’s cross as early as the 2nd minute rang the danger bells for the Syrians, but a prying Sunil Chhetri in the box could not do any damage as the opponents survived.

A minute later, Almarmour had a golden opportunity to take the lead for Syria after he went clear onto goal with only Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to beat. The Syrian, however, scooped his shot wide of the net as India survived an early setback.

Chances for India were far from scarce. In the 6th minute, Udanta Singh cut in from the right flank and sent a low cross into the box which went astray, despite Sunil Chhetri, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Abdul Sahal being in the box but being unable to make contact with the delivery.

In the 22nd minute, Pritam Kotal tried to release Udanta Singh once again onto goal but his through ball was a bit too much and ran away for a goal-kick. Gupreet Singh Sadhu was called into action in the 24th minute when a thunderous header from inside the Indian box was plucked easily by him.

A frantic half, where both teams had a flurry of chances, could not result in any goal as both teams fluffed in front of goal and went into the tunnel at half-time on level pegging as the scoreline read 0-0.

Changing over, the Blue Tigers had to wait little for their reward. In the 51st minute, Narender Ghelot, who made his debut in India’s clash against Tajikistan, found the back of the Syria net with a thunderous header connecting off Anirudh Thapa’s corner, to give India the lead.

The goal gave the Blue Tigers much confidence and India started to dominate possession in the middle of the park with Sunil Chhetri and co. jotting down a couple of passes to frustrate the opposition, keeping hold of the ball with much ease.

The Indian defence kept Syria shut in the second half and an inspired performance by Rahul Bheke and goalscorer Narender, coupled with pressure from the midfield suffocated Syria. But Syria were awarded a penalty kick, much against the run of play, in the 78th minute, and Firas made the most out of it, equalising the opponent’s deficit to make the scoreline read 1-1.

Syria tried to breach India’s defence once again but could not as the full-time scoreline read 1-1. With Syria dropping points, DPR Korea advance to the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup on July 19, 2019 where they will clash against Tajikistan.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Anas wants win for the fans against Syria

AHMEDABAD: The last match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 group stage will see the Blue Tigers take on Syria in Ahmedabad on Tuesday (July 16, 2019).

Defender Anas Edathodika, who came out of his International retirement stated the team is “working very hard” to clinch the three points.

Anas, who was summoned by Head Coach Igor Stimac, however, isn’t in the final 23, but has been practicing with the rest of the squad in Ahmedabad.

“We really want to win the match against Syria,” Anas said at a media interaction, before adding: “The coach is working with the players on an individual basis. He is talking to them one-by-one as we are gearing up for the game. The focus is on identifying the mistakes, working on them, and rectifying them. I’m sure the players will give their best.”

He thanked the supporters in Ahmedabad for their continuous support over the two games, saying that the team wants to win the third match “for the fans.” 

“It’s a huge motivation for us, and a great sight to see a packed stadium. We are thankful for their support and hope to grab a victory.”

Anas, who was part of the Indian side that lifted the Hero Intercontinental Cup last year maintained the players are concerned at conceding soft goals.

“We have conceded some avoidable goals in the last two matches. It is a cause of concern for the players.”

”Football is a team game. When we concede, it falls on the entire team, and when we score the credit goes to everyone. We have a different system under the new coach and it will take time to grow in to it,” he mentioned.

The coach had previously spoken about using the Hero Intercontinental Cup as a preparatory platform for the upcoming 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and according to Anas, the Blue Tigers are looking to make the most of “playing against quality teams”.

“All three oppositions are very tough. It’s great that we have got the chance to prepare against such quality sides. The time we have to prepare is precious. We are looking to make the most of it,” he said.

The central defender also spoke about his return to the National team, and how the coach convinced him to reverse his decision. 

“When the coach called me back, it felt like going back home and playing again for my motherland. After the AFC Asian Cup exit, it was an emotional time for me. I had my personal reasons to leave. However, he told me about his plans and after speaking to him, I thought I am ready to take on this challenge again.”

India still have a mathematical chance of making it to the final provided Tajikistan beat DPR Korea in their last group league match.

UAE born Sahal feel moving to India changed his life

NEW DELHI: Prior to the Blue Tigers’ departure for the 2019 King’s Cup, talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri had quipped: “Sahal (Abdul Samad) is an extremely gifted talent. He is someone who really excites me. I don’t know if people have watched a lot of Sahal, but if that guy is fit, he’s got proper talent.”

Since then, Sahal has gone on to make his International debut, and though Igor Stimac’s boys have lost three of the last four, the midfielder has been one of India’s standout performers in the middle of the park with his combination of skill, and work rate.

Sahal was also voted the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year 2018-19 by the coaches of the Hero I-League, and Hero ISL clubs. “It’s difficult to explain in words – the feeling,” the 22-year-old said. “I am trying my best. I have worn the National jersey but I know I have a lot to do. I have to keep working hard, and get selected for the next set of games.”

A natural ball-playing midfielder, Sahal’s dribbling and passing abilities catch the eye, as he provides his coaches a number of options, thanks to his versatility.

“Training with the team and learning from the new coach has been wonderful. We are looking to keep, and pass the ball while attacking. We aim to create multiple threats for our opponents,” the talented midfielder added.

Born in Al-Ain, UAE, he completed his schooling from Al Ain before coming to India for his college degree – a decision which was aided by elder brother Fazil. And that allowed him to pursue his footballing dream.

“I first played football for my school team in the 8th standard. Then I started playing 7s in Dubai, and joined an Academy as well. However, the turning point came when I shifted to India,” Sahal recalls.

A few months after starting his degree, his talent was spotted by coach Siddique of SN College in Kannur who convinced him to switch colleges. From there, Sahal never looked back. After excelling at University-level tournaments, he soon found a place in the district U-21 side, and then the Kerala team for the Santosh Trophy, while also playing a little in the local 7s scene.

For the 2017-18 season, he was signed by ISL side Kerala Blasters for their reserve team, and was promoted to the senior side in the same period as well.

“Playing through the college system was a great experience,” Sahal explains. “I never knew a player could come through the university-level ranks, and play for India so quickly. I owe a lot to my coach who believed in me, and gave me a chance. I had to re-do my first year of college again but in the end, it was certainly worth it,” he smiles.

Sahal is one of the youngest members in this fresh-looking Indian line-up, which also features a number of seasoned campaigners from whom Sahal has “learnt a lot.”

“There’s so much one can learn from the senior players! They have a wealth of experience, and teach us a lot on and off the pitch. Small tips such as taking care of our diet, dealing with pressure, playing our natural game, go a long way in helping newcomers like us,” he expressed.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Korea DPR slay India to dump out of the competition

AHMEDABAD: India’s desperate attempt in the second half wasn’t enough as they went down 2-5 to DPR Korea in their second match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday (July 13).

With two losses in as many games, India still have a chance of making it to the final, provided they beat Syria by a huge margin in their next match, and hope Tajikistan beat DPR Korea in the other.

While Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sunil Chhetri scored one each to reduce the margin for India, DPR Korea captain Jong Il Gwan was the star of the show scoring two, and assisting another. Furthermore, Sim Hyon Jin, and Ri Un Chol, and Ri Hyon Kin scored one apiece for the winners.

Indian National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac said that there was “courage, and confidence on display in the second half.”

“In the second-half, we came out with out with heads up. We had the courage, and confidence when we decided to play football. In the first-half, we played without courage and self- confidence,” he stated in the post-match press conference.

“I gave the players the chance to play for India and asked them to enjoy their football. But if you do not show courage, and fight you cannot win,” he added.

“In the second-half, we started taking responsibility, and created chances. We were dangerous in front of their goal. But it was difficult to keep shape, and go up and down continuously. But I’m proud of the way they played,” the Coach explained.

Down 0-3 in the first half, a couple of changes by India Head Coach Igor Stimac at half-time brought back the thrust for India. The introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Udanta Singh in place of Manvir Singh, and Brandon Fernandes provided India the much-needed impetus.

The Blue Tigers pulled one back soon when Sunil Chhetri latched on to a stray ball, and played Chhangte through the channel. The latter, took control, and smashed it into the bottom corner. However, Ri Chol soon added a fourth for Korea, after being played through by captain Gwon.

In the 71st minute, Sunil Chhetri managed another one for India – his 71st International goal off a cross from Udanta.

India next play Syria in their last group league match on July 16.

Players enjoying the new system under Stimac, says Chhetri

AHMEDABAD: The Indian senior national team has seen the introduction of a new system, new style of play and a number of new faces since the arrival of head coach Igor Stimac in May and according to talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri, the whole team is “enjoying” training under the former Croatia boss.

Speaking at a media interaction on Friday (July 12, 2019), Chhetri said, “The majority of our focus is on keeping the ball. There are a lot of movements and players asking for the ball. Of course, at times, we have to put safety first and we cannot be passing in defence all the time needlessly.

“Eventually, whether it works or not, only time will tell, but I can say that I am enjoying this style and all the players are enjoying as well. The more we are in sync with the coach, it is better for us and we will back him in all his plans for the team,” he added.

Coach Stimac had stated previously about the ongoing Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 being a preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, that begin in September. With the team having faced Curacao and Thailand previously at the King’s Cup 2019 and now playing Tajikistan, DPR Korea and Syria, Chhetri stated that playing such opposition will “make the team stronger”.

He said, “The level of opposition is really good. I don’t remember the last time we played five countries of this quality together. We might lose some and might win some but these are the games you want to target. Unless you play these teams, you never know where you stand. We’ll certainly be stronger after these games and they are important if we want to go to the next level.”

Chhetri also said these set of games is crucial for the coach to pick his set of first-choice players for the upcoming qualifiers. “The two games in Thailand and three here have been really crucial. We are understanding what the coach wants from us exactly and this tournament is a progression where he is still looking for first 18-23 set of players,” he affirmed.

India will now take on DPR Korea in their next match on Saturday (July 13, 2019) in Ahmedabad.

Chhetri, who grabbed a brace in India’s opening game against Tajikistan, said that the whole team is “working hard” to come back from the previous loss and stressed on the importance of keeping calm.

“We need to learn from all the mistakes in the Tajikistan game and try to rectify them as much as possible. Individually, as well as collectively, we are all working hard on that. The most important thing is to keep calm and put your head down and work.”

“No one else is going to help you, which means we have to pick ourselves up and give a good account of ourselves against DPR Korea to churn out a positive result,” Chhetri, who is India’s most-capped player of all-time, said.

Intercontinental Cup 2019: Focused Blue Tigers aim to Bounce back against DPR Korea

AHMEDABAD: With the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, the ongoing Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 has been billed as a crucial opportunity to prepare for the same and according to national team assistant coach Venkatesh S., the coaching staff will continue “assessing the players” as the Blue Tigers take on DPR Korea on Saturday (July 13, 2019) in Ahmedabad.

He said, “For head coach Igor Stimac, all 23 players are equal and we have multiple players for each position. We have picked the best 23 players in the country and with six substitutions per match as well, we want to use everyone and see how they react to certain situations.”

“Our plan has to be to win the game, of course, irrespective of who plays. The coach has clearly stated that these games are to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers and we don’t want to put too much pressure on the players or lose anyone due to injuries,” Venkatesh continued.

“The things that didn’t go right for us in the first match are things that can be fixed,” said goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, before adding, “It’s not much of a worry for me as a player and for my other teammates as well. I am sure that everyone is ready to learn, which is important, and make sure that we grow stronger day-by-day.”

18-year-old Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who was handed his senior team debut by coach Stimac at the King’s Cup 2019 in Thailand, mentioned that the team is “extremely focused” and added that he hopes the fans will continue to support the team as they did in the previous encounter.

He said, “The whole team is extremely focused on the match against DPR Korea. What’s done is done and we are not thinking about the loss to Tajikistan. We have been working hard so as to not repeat the mistakes we made. We want to play even better and I hope we get the support of the fans in the stadium once again.”

Centre-back Adil Khan, who made his comeback to the national team under coach Stimac, spoke about how there is a “healthy competition for places” in the side and that the main goal for the team is to do well in the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

“Our ultimate aim is to do well in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The coach is looking at many players in the squad to settle on his best 11 and there is a good competition for places. For the match against DPR Korea, we are preparing well and know that we have to do our best,” he said.

The match between India and DPR Korea will kick-off at 8 PM IST and will be a crucial one for both sides in their bid to enter the final, with DPR Korea suffering a 5-2 defeat to Syria in their first fixture.

We are on the right path, affirms Gurpreet

AHMEDABAD: Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the only Indian player to play in the UEFA Europa League, stands out as one of the senior members of the Indian Team. The shot-stopper who last wore the captain’s armband when the Blue Tigers recorded a memorable 4-1 win over Thailand in their opening match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 said in a media interaction that “we are on the right track.”

“We have grown a lot, especially in the last 5 years. I have personally seen the young talent that we have. Our youth teams – the U16s, U15s — the players possess great technical abilities, and have great awareness. The senior players have grown in terms of their mentalities as well,” he stated.

With Ex-Croatia manager Igor Stimac, Head Coach of the Blue Tigers having handed 9 International debuts in the 3 matches so far, Gurpreet hailed the impact of the new faces in the team, saying that the infusion of young blood in the team is “very important.”

“Having young blood in the team is very important. I feel that the youngsters who have come in through the system are very talented. They are very technically able players who are confident, and know how to play with the ball. It’s a really good sight. I hope they lead us through the years to come,” he quipped.

Gurpreet also spoke about the need for him to “lead by example,” which is something he stated he learnt from his seniors. “The role that the young players have in the team is something very important. What I have learnt from my seniors — Sunil (Chhetri) bhai and Subrata (Pal) bhai is to lead by example, and make sure you are trying to do the right thing. It is how young people learn and it is important for me. Sandesh (Jhingan) and Sunil bhai, who has been doing it for so many years, to lead by example.”

Under Stimac, the Blue Tigers have registered one win, which came away to Thailand in the King’s Cup 2019. Gurpreet termed the current phase as a “transition period” and dubbed this “delicate” time as “extremely crucial.”

“Right now, it’s a transition period. We have a new coach, a new set-up and new players. It is a very crucial period for the team to learn what is required from them, and to make sure that we put it out on the pitch. If we perform with all the tactical awareness that is provided, we can do well,” the former Stabaek man felt.

“It takes a collective effort to get things right. We have to test out things in matches like these and make sure that we are ready for the big stage when the time comes.”

The Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 is being held in Ahmedabad, marking the first time the senior national team is playing in the state of Gujarat. Gurpreet praised the “commendable” step and said that the team has enjoyed playing in the city. Tickets for all matches can be purchased at

 “India is a big country, and to have connectivity is very important. If you don’t go to a certain place, you won’t know whether people love the game or not. We have had a great experience here and now we know that people love football here and come to the stadium to watch it. It’s a commendable job by the federation to have that kind of connectivity and hope we have more such experiences in the coming years,” the custodian mentioned.

The Blue Tigers will take on DPR Korea in their next match of the competition, scheduled to take place on Saturday (July 13, 2019) at 8 PM IST. Gurpreet affirmed that he hoped to see another excellent turnout at the stadium for the encounter.   


“Seeing the turnout against Tajikistan was amazing and a great number of people came to cheer for India. I hope they keep coming to watch us in the next matches as well and we’ll try to play our best game as well,” he said.

I draw inspiration from MC Mary Kom, says Chhetri

The changing face of International Football suggests that footballers are reaching their peak post 30. AIFF Men’s Player of the Year 2018-19 Sunil Chhetri smiles. “I think the knowledge and discipline is the highest in my life right now – right from taking rest, eating the right food, and doing the right training,” he says.

In an interview, the man with 70 International goals spoke at length about his 6th AIFF Player of the Year Award, he being the biggest MC Mary Kom fan, his learnings from Mary Kom, about when a player ‘needs to look around, and beyond,’ and much more. EXCERPTS:

You won the AIFF Player of the Year for a record sixth time. Has it sunk in?

The Award is the added motivation to do better, and it reminds me of my responsibility. Honestly, I have never got a time, or ever have I sat back and thought of what, and how much have I achieved. I am just happy that I am playing for my country, and that I am training. I am enjoying it. I never think about 100+ games, or whatever number of goals, 6 AIFF Best Player awards. That I have kept aside to speak about over a drink when I retire. (smiles).

Where and from whom do you gather motivation from?

I gather from motivation around me — from a lot of personalities who have done well in their respective fields. MC Mary Kom is one of them. She is an unbelievable story. She is a 6-time World champion, and have been a World Champion after giving birth to twins, and even after being a mother of three. Besides, she has 14 Gold medals in all, including the Asian Games, the Asian Championships, the CWG Games, and others. If she doesn’t inspire India, who else will. I am her biggest fan.

What have you learnt from her?

Her never say die attitude. Nothing is too late, everything is possible. There are phases in life which surface at times, and it makes you understand that despite you working hard, everything what you are doing is probably not enough. That’s when you need to look around, and beyond. You need to look at what other people are doing. A prime example stays Mary Kom. That’s when the understanding creeps up — that you need to push yourself more.

So none from the footballing world inspires you?

There are two gentlemen named Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi (smiles again). In the last 10-11 years they have completely dominated the world of football. If they don’t score in 2-3 matches, people start speaking that ‘they are out of form.’ Whenever I am stressed or tired, I always think about these guys. And it falls into place for me.

With so much adulation, how do you look at life?

Thankfully, currently in my career everything else has been being taken care of. In my life the only one thing I have to do is to play. Everything else, God has given me. My family, comfort, food, luxury, name, fame – everything. I just need to be positive and play. And if I cannot do that to the best of my capabilities then I am letting myself down, and everyone who has been involved in making SC11 the brand – I am letting them down. That is my motivation.

You said Awards don’t mean much to you? But you must be feeling proud.

Off course I feel proud especially when people keep reminding you that almost record is in your name — and here you are talking about a country’s history. But I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t take it to my heart. I don’t get carried away. I know for a fact that it’s not going to last for ever.

From someone who never dreamt of playing for the country, or never even thought of making it professional – now holding almost all the records the country has – is unbelievable.

Cliford Miranda, Mahesh Gawli inspired me to play for India, says Mandar

AHMEDABAD: Two players took their senior national team bows when the Blue Tigers took to the field in their Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 opener against Tajikistan, one of them being the vastly-experienced Mandar Rao Dessai. 

He talked about how he aspired to play for the national team ever since he started his professional career and mentioned that the support from his seniors played a crucial role in his progress. 

He said, “I have wanted to play for the senior team ever since I started out with Dempo. I had teammates like Clifford (Miranda) and Mahesh Gawli who played for India back then and they always inspired me and helped grow as a player. They believed in me and used to say that I will play for the national team one day.”

The winger-turned-fullback, who turned 27 earlier this year, was called up by head coach Igor Stimac after a stellar 2018-19 season and stated that “age is just a number” for him. 

“Age is just a number,” he said, before adding, “I have to keep my head down, work hard and keep moving forward. It was a great feeling to wear the Indian colours and be on the pitch. Now, I have to keep my place in the squad and I’m always ready to play whenever the coach wants me to.”

The Goan started the Tajikistan clash on the left side of the Indian defence – a role he started playing in only from last season. “I accepted the challenge and even though it was my first time playing left-back, I eventually settled and enjoyed playing in the position,” he recalled.

According to Mandar, his attacking style of play is something that makes him a valuable asset for Stimac, given the style of football he wants the team to play. He affirmed, “The coach believes that I can help in the attacking side of the game. It is my strong point and it’s always on my mind to go forward and help build up attacks. He wants the team to keep the ball and move up the pitch slowly, which is a style I am familiar with at club level as well.”

The Blue Tigers will take on DPR Korea in their next clash on Saturday (July 13, 2019) and the match will be critical for teams as they vie for a place in the final. Talking about the mood in the team, Mandar said that the players are “not thinking about the previous result” and will keep working harder in order to obtain a positive result.

“We had a great performance in the first half of the last match but the second half was not good. However, we are not thinking about that. We have two more games to go and are focused on them. We are a young team and as senior players, we have to encourage the youngsters and ensure we bounce back strongly,” he mentioned.

Mandar, who provided the assist for India’s second goal against Tajikistan, also hailed the fans who came to the stadium to cheer the team and stated that he hopes the “passion will only grow”. He said, “I was delighted when I saw the crowd in the first game and it shows that the people in Gujarat really have an interest in football. As time goes by, I hope the passion will increase and we will see more players emerge from here.”