AFC Challenge Cup Team Previews: Maldives

Ahead of the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives, we will be previewing each of the 8 teams that will participate for a chance to reach the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.  Click on the links below to see each team’s preview, once available:

 

Matches

Monday, May 19th (Malé) – Myanmar

Wednesday, May 21st (Malé) – Kyrgyzstan

Friday, May 23rd (Malé) – Palestine

You can also check out our Predictions Page to see our projected winners in each match.

 

Maldives Team Page

 

Background

The Maldives had a relatively quiet campaign in 2013.  Being the host nation of the AFC Challenge Cup, they were not required to partake in the qualifying process.  While it is surely a great thing to already have your bid in place, you do miss the competitive aspect of matches that are more significant than friendlies.

Maldives did play some competitive matches in the 2013 edition of the South Asian Football Federation Championships played in Nepal.  They were placed in the weaker group B along with eventual champions Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka.  The Red Snappers were flying high during the group stage; they defeated Sri Lanka and Bhutan by a combined 18-2 and then grinded out a 0-0 draw with Afghanistan to claim top of the group.  A semi-final match up with rival India proved to be too much as they bowed out of the SAFF with a 1-0 loss.

The only other matches the Maldives played in 2013 were two disappointing friendly losses to Seychelles in November.  Those two wins for the Seychelles proved to be their first wins since 2011.  Surely Maldives are anxious to return to the pitch and rid themselves of an unsatisfactory camp.

 

Before the Tournament

Maldives have scheduled a friendly with fellow Challenge Cup participant Laos.  While Laos isn’t exactly a regional powerhouse, they seem to be on par with the Maldives and will provide an excellent Litmus test prior to the tournament.  Our friends over at https://www.facebook.com/maldives.national.football.team deliver excellent coverage of the Red Snappers pre-tournament news.  There is also information on ticket sales, ticket prices and even new national team kits the Maldives will be sporting for the finals.  Be sure to check it out.

Also be sure to follow them on Twitter @MVFootballTeam

 

The Tournament

Maldives will open the tournament on Monday May 19th against Myanmar.  While there is no such thing as an easy match in international football, this one will probably be the easiest.  Our predictor has Maldives as a 1+ goal favorite and likes a 2-1 or 2-0 scoreline in favor of the Snappers.  Maldives are winless all time against the ASEAN nation, but we think they finally crack the code this time around.

The crystal clear waters get a little murky for the Maldives after the opener.  Central Asian qualifiers Kyrgyzstan stand in as their second opponent.  Our predictor has Kyrgyzstan ranked 32 places high than Maldives, but it is hopeful that home field advantage will carry the Snappers to at least a draw.  Kyrgyzstan was air tight defensively during their qualifying campaign but have since struggled to sync offense and defense in the same game.  Historically, these teams have met on three previous occasions, with the Maldives winning the most recent in 2011.  The other two were 6-0 and 3-0 Kyrgyzstan wins back in 1997.

If Maldives can escape with 4 points from the opening two matches, National Side in Malé will be bouncing for their final group match against West Asian side Palestine.   The Palestinians also locked all windows and doors in qualifying, giving up 0 goals in 3 games.  We have Palestine ranked 43 places above the hosts and have Maldives as a slight underdog here.  However, Palestine have proven that if advancement is already guaranteed, they can play down to their opponent’s strength instead of finishing the job.  Palestine defeated Maldives 2-0 in their only previous meeting in 2012.

 

Projection

xCro is going to break hearts across the Maldives with its projections this month.  Given the strength of Palestine and Kyrgyzstan, xCro give the Snappers about a 56% chance of surviving the group.  While it certainly is attainable, Maldives will need to make the most of their opportunities in order to advance.  Ali Ashfaq will put the team on his back, but can he also support the weight of a host nation?  We will find out in a week’s time!

Projected Group Finish: 2nd

 

 

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