Sri Lanka’s commendable display lends hope to a promising future
By Mustaq Sydeen
Despite a heartbreaking defeat in the finals of the Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa Trophy, Sri Lanka football has a lot of positives to take from the tournament, especially the way they fought against top teams in the tournament, and won a lot of praise among the football fraternity.
The lads have certainly reassured that the future of Sri Lankan football is currently in very good hands and there are better days ahead. The Sri Lankan team was on the cusp of making history, but Seychelles came from 3-1 down to equalize in injury time and defeat Sri Lanka 3-1 in the penalty shootout to clinch the Trophy at the Racecourse International Stadium on Friday.
With some luck, Sri Lanka would have clinched the Four Nation Tourney. However, it was still a creditable campaign from the Golden Army. A classic case of being so near and yet so far. Sri Lanka entered the tournament by virtue of being the hosts of the competition.
What were fans in Sri Lanka supposed to expect from such a team? Was Sri Lanka just going to participate in the tournament? But Sri Lankan stars had other plans and showed their mettle and competed with all their heart in their first international tournament hosted after ages.
It is certainly not easy to take the field against technically superior sides with just few training sessions under your belt. And the Sri Lankan team did exactly that. They hardly got any time to fine-tune their bearings before facing Maldives in the opener, and yet played brilliantly to hold them to a draw 4-4. Moreover, to play two high-intensity matches within a span of six days is no mean feat.
Head coach Amir Alagic must take much of the credit for providing a calming influence and shrewd guidance. The tactician’s stock has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being handed the reins at Football Sri Lanka 2 years before. But what impressed most about Sri Lanka was their poise and confidence. No matter what happened, the lads always looked like they were ready to make the next play.
They counter-attacked several times when their opponents had a chance to seize the momentum, but they simply came up a little short. For the overwhelming majority of football enthusiasts in Sri Lanka, the inaugural tourney should be a great relief about the positive changes taking place at Sri Lanka football. Football Sri Lanka have set themselves the ambitious goal of raising the standard of football so that the nation can produce a team that has the potential to qualify for a future World Cup.