Seven-time champions India to play with Maldives, Sri Lanka in group stage of SAFF Cup

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

File image of Indian football team in training. Image courtesy: Twitter @Indianfootball

File image of Indian football team in training. Image courtesy: Twitter @Indianfootball

In group A, the tournament hosts Bangladesh, will go head-to-head with Nepal, Pakistan, and Bhutan after an exciting ceremony at the Pan Pacific Hotel Sonargaon.

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

India have faced Maldives three times in the SAFF Cup final defeating them in 1997 and 2009, when the event was last played in Dhaka.

In 2008, the Maldives got the better of their prestigious rivals for what remains as their sole success in the competition.

India are also the defending champions following their success in 2015, when they overcame Afghanistan in the final. The latter team 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 semi-finals.

Bangladesh will hope that the return of the SAFF Suzuki Cup to 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 Maldives on penalties in the final.

"Today (Wednesday), 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, South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

"Since our first tournament in 1993 in Lahore our tournament has made great strides forward and our organization 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," he added.

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.

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2018 20:32:20 IST

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