SAFF Championship 2018: preview, venues, groups, and history
The SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Championship is played every 2 years. A total of eight teams/countries participate in the tournament. The countries that participate in the tournament are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Afganistan was a member of SAFF until 2015 when they joined CAFF (Central Asian Football Federation). Therefore, this year only seven countries will be participating in the tournament.
The 2018 SAFF Championship will be hosted by Bangladesh. The tournament will start on 4th September and the final will be played on 15th September 2018.
All the matches are scheduled to be played at Dhaka, Bangabandhu National Stadium. It has a capacity of 36,000 spectators.
There are two groups as follows:
Group A: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan
Group B: India, Sri Lanka, Maldives
The top two teams from each group will proceed to the next round (Semi-finals) and the final.
India will play their first match on 5th September against Sri Lanka and their second match on 9th September against the Maldives.
Finals: 15th September
India's History in the SAFF Championship
India is the only country among all participating countries which have a place in the Top 100 of the FIFA world rankings.
India has won the SAFF Championship seven times (1993, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2015), the most by any country. They defeated Afghanistan by 2-1 in extra time in 2015 SAFF Championship final.
Three Indian players are on the list of overall Top goalscorers - Sunil Chhetri (13 Goals), Bhaichung Bhutia (12 Goals), and M. Vijayan (10 Goals).
Why this tournament is important for India
India is going to compete in the tournament with the U-23 team as last they did last time. Therefore, this tournament will help our young Indian players to grow at international level.
The main target is to qualify for the World Cup, and for this, we need young talents and tournaments such as this one which provides great exposure to the young team.
Recently India won the U-15 Women's SAFF Championship title.
India Squad List:
Goalkeepers: Vishal Kaith, Kamaljit Singh, Sukhdev Patil
Defenders: Salam Ranjan, Davinder Singh, Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Mohamad Sajid Dhot, Jerry Lalrinzuala
Midfielders: Nikhil Poojary, Isaac Vanmalswama, Vinit Rai, Nandha Kumar, Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Vignesh D
Forwards: Sumit Parsi, Hitesh Sharma, Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary.