2018 SAFF Cup football tournament: SL clubbed with India, Maldives

Friday, 20 April 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Deccanherald.com: Seven-time champions India have been drawn in Group B with the Maldives and Sri Lanka during the official draw of the 2018 SAFF Cup football tournament.

In Group A, the tournament hosts Bangladesh, will go head-to-head with Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan.

The SAFF Suzuki Cup, the region’s premier football tournament, will be played in Bangladesh from September 4 to 15, marking the third time it has been staged in the country.

India have faced the Maldives three times in the SAFF Cup final, defeating them in 1997 and 2009.

In 2008, the Maldives got the better of India for their sole success in the competition.

India are also the defending champions following their success in 2015, when they overcame Afghanistan in the final. Afghanistan are not competing this year having joined the Central Asian Football Association.

The Bangabandhu National Stadium will host all the matches in September with the top four teams qualifying for the semifinals. Bangladesh will hope that the return of the SAFF Cup on home turf will mean a second title. When the tournament was hosted by the country for the first time in 2003, the Bangladeshis came out trumps by defeating the Maldives on penalties in the final.

“Today, we raised the curtain on what will be the 12th edition of our region’s biggest and most important international football tournament,” said Kazi Md Salahuddin, president of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

“Since our first tournament in 1993 in Lahore our tournament has made great strides forward and our organisation is truly proud to be here today boasting seven fine footballing nations.

The SAFF Cup plays such an important role in raising the profile of football in our region, and inspiring our younger generation to play the game.”

As well as winning a record seven times, India have been runners-up three times while Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka have each tasted victory once.