A glorious night in Indian football history unfolded on a terrific Tuesday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, as India’s Blue Tigers defeated Kuwait 5-4 on penalties, to clinch the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship 2023 title in Bengaluru.
🇮🇳 INDIA are SAFF 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐒 for the 9️⃣th time! 💙
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) July 4, 2023
In the summit clash of what was the biggest and most competitive SAFF Championship ever, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s winning save etched India’s ninth sub-continental title, adding another chapter to the nation’s regional supremacy. The game ended 1-1 after 120 minutes; Shabaib Al-Khaldi had put Kuwait in front early on, and newly-crowned AIFF Player of the Year Lallianzuala Chhangte equalised later in the first half.
With this win, Igor Stimac becomes the first foreign head coach to win back-to-back SAFF Championship titles. This was also the first time that India defeated two West Asian countries in back-to-back matches, after winning the semi-final against Lebanon, also on penalties.
After a nail-biting progression, the match came down to the dreaded penalty shootout in the end, the second in a row for India in the 2023 SAFF Championship, after having defeated Lebanon from the 12-yard spot. Chhetri, Jhingan, Chhangte, and Subhasish scored for India, while Al-Otaibi, Al-Dhefeery, Mahran, and Al-Khaldi netted their respective penalties for Kuwait. For India, Udanta was the only unsuccessful penalty taker, sending his spot-kick over the cross-bar, while Abdullah hit the woodwork from his kick for Kuwait. Blue Tigers goalkeeper Gurpreet was the hero of the night, as he saved the last penalty of the final by Kuwait captain Haijah, to win India their ninth title. AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey presented the winners’ trophy to India.
SAFF Championship 2023 Awards
Fair play award – Nepal
Best goalkeeper of the competition – Anisur Rahman Zico (Bangladesh)
Highest Goalscorer award – Sunil Chhetri (India)
Most valuable player of the competition – Sunil Chhetri (India)
Winners – 50,000 USD (India)
Runners-up – 25,000 USD (Kuwait)