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India clinches SAFF Under-18 Championship
The Indian football team lifted the SAFF U-18 Championship for the first time when it defeated Bangladesh 2-1 in the title clash here on Sunday.
India surged ahead as early as the 2nd minute when Vikram Partap Singh went past his marker and banged the ball in. The match-winner came in injury time when the nippy Ravi Bahadur Rana scored a screamer from about 30 yards. Yeasin Arafat had reduced the margin for Bangladesh in the 40th minute.
“I had maintained that it will take a moment of brilliance to end this SAFF Championship, and it was fitting that Ravi finished if off with a wonderful strike,” head coach Floyd Pinto stated moments after the final whistle. “We were not just the best footballing team in the tournament, but also the most effective one. I am really happy for the boys. They earned it.”
India’s Ninthoinganba Meetei was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel congratulated the team. “The team improved with every match. It’s double delight for Indian youth teams especially after the U-16 qualified for AFC Championships last week. Keep it up,” said Patel.
The victory makes it sweeter as the U-15 national team had lifted the SAFF U-15 Championship by beating Bangladesh in the final in August.
While the U-16 team went on to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championships, the U-19 team will play the AFC Qualifiers in November in its quest to qualify for the AFC Finals.