The draw for the 2015 SAFF Suzuki Cup has been announced and hosts India have been drawn in group A with Nepal, Sri Lanka and arch-rivals Pakistan. The other group sees Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh pitted against each other.
The tournament will be hosted by the football-loving state of Kerala, with all the 15 matches scheduled to be be held at The Sports Hub, Thiruvananthapuram. The ninth edition of the SAFF Cup will be played towards the end of 2015, with the tournament beginning on the 23rd of December and concluding on the 3rd of January, 2016.
6-time winners India, who recently lost 3-0 to Iran in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, will be hoping to make it their 7th win at the tournament as they look to continue growing under new coach Stephen Constantine. They will be playing in the tournament after completing their qualifiers against Turkmenistan, Oman and Guam later this year and will be hoping to go into the SAFF Cup in great form.
The team will have their last two World Cup qualifiers after the SAFF Cup, including a daunting trip to Teheran to face Asia's best-ranked team Iran. The previous winners of the SAFF Cup were Afghanistan, who had clinched the trophy after defeating India 2-0 in the finals.
The highest-ranked team in the tournament are Afghanistan, placed 130th according to the latest FIFA rankings. Hosts India are ranked 155th, while the lowest ranked team in the tournament are Nepal, at 185. Fellow group A members Sri Lanka are ranked 184th while Pakistan are ranked 170th.
This is the 3rd time that India will be hosting the tournament, and this edition also marks the first time that the SAFF Cup has a principal sponsor in the form of Suzuki. The Sports Hub, Thiruvananthapuram, is a recently inaugurated world-class sports complex and will play host to the tournament.
The format of the SAFF Cup is pretty straight-forward, with two groups of 4 teams each. The top two from each group will advance to the semi-finals, and the winner will be decided on January 3rd, with the final of the tournament the only match scheduled in the new year.Published 16 Sep 2015, 12:49 IST