India clubbed with Maldives, Sri Lanka in SAFF Cup

India is also the defending champion following the success in 2015, when it overcame Afghanistan in the final.

India has faced Maldives three times in the SAFF Cup final defeating them in 1997 and 2009 — when the event was last played in Dhaka.   -  PTI

Seven-time champions India has been drawn in Group B with Maldives and Sri Lanka at the official draw of the 2018 SAFF Cup Football tournament.

The SAFF Suzuki Cup, the region’s premier football tournament, will be played in Bangladesh from September 4 to 15 — for the third time in the country.

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

India has 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, Maldives got the better of its prestigious rivals for what remains as its sole success in the competition.

India is also the defending champion following the success in 2015, when it 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 semifinals.

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, Bangladesh defeated 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, South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

“Since the first tournament in 1993 in Lahore, our event 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.

Apart from winning the tournament for a record seven times, India has been the runner-up three thrice. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka registered one win each.

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