Hosts India is taking on invited Kuwait in the final of SAFF championship 2023 in Bangalore today.
The match will kick off at Sri Kantiravaa stadium at 7:45 PM NST.
India head coach Igor Stimac will again miss the touch line for his antics. His assistant Mahesh Gauli will take the stage.
"It was a tense affair last time out against Kuwait, and also Lebanon. We've spoken to the boys to be calm and cool and direct all the focus on winning the final. It will be a totally different game. We have a positive feeling, and hope we can continue how we've been doing so far," said Gawali at the pre-match press conference.
Gawali lifted the SAFF Championship trophy twice as a player – first in 2005, in Karachi, and then in 2011 in New Delhi. But winning it as a coach will be a remarkable feat for the former central defender, especially with the quality of the teams in this edition.
"This one is going to be more difficult (to win). Kuwait are a good opponent, and the competition has been tough. Back then, we only played against SAFF teams. Winning in Karachi in 2005 was very enjoyable, but if we win tomorrow, the joy will be of a different level," he was quoted as saying by AIFF.
Kuwait head into the final in a rich vein of form, having not lost any of their last eight matches. Abdullah Al-Bloushi has been the difference-maker for the West Asians in their previous two games. He scored the winner against Bangladesh in the first half of extra time with an accurate low strike. Against India, it was his cross from the right, which got deflected into the net by Anwar Ali for an own goal.
However, along the lines of Gawali, Kuwait head coach Rui Bento also expects the final to be a distinct affair from the group-stage match.
"Yes we played a tough game against India, but from my experience over all these years, the final is always a different game. We will fight for the trophy. It's very important for the players to try to stay focused and play well. We have worked hard to reach the final, and my message to them will be to enjoy the game," said Bento.
The Portuguese took charge of the Kuwait national team last year and is now one match away from winning the nation's first trophy since the 2010 Arabian Gulf Cup, where they beat Saudi Arabia in the final.
"We have played seven games in the last 21 days. That's a lot of games in a short time. But now it's one final, and we will give our maximum. We need to believe in our process," concluded Bento.
Meghraj KC: We Are Unaware About Our Opponents