India favourite in SAFF Ch'ship opener against Sri Lanka

Drawn in pool B alongside Maldives and Sri Lanka, defending champion India goes into the tournament as the outright favourite.  

Stephen Constantine's young squad comes into the tournament on the back of a month's preparation including an exposure camp in Australia.   -  Prashant Nakwe

A young India team will kick-off its campaign in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 as it faces Sri Lanka in its opening match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Drawn in pool B alongside Maldives and Sri Lanka, defending champion India goes into the tournament as the outright favourite.  

India has a superior record against the islanders, winning 15 of 22 previous meetings. Sri Lanka's only win against India came in the final of the 1995 SAFF Championship.

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Stephen Constantine's young squad comes into the tournament on the back of a month's preparation including an exposure camp in Australia, where they played A-League champion Sydney FC among others.

Despite going down 3-0 to Sydney FC, India won its matches against APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC and Rydalmere Lions FC.

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"We're coming from a very effective camp in Australia. As we have spoken before we had three very different sorts of game and our boys have worked very hard to make a point there,” head coach Stephen Constantine stated.

“Facing some of the good sides in this tournament would be a real challenge for us and this is the best scenario to test ourselves,” he added.

Sri Lanka's newly appointed coach Nizam Packeer Ali is not bogged down by the underdog tag his team will be carrying into the fixture.

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"There are no favourites once the match kicks-off and the better team will win eventually. It's very crucial to start the campaign with a positive result and we're up for it," he said.

"It's better to face India early in such a tournament rather facing them in the knock-out stage."

Interestingly, during Constantine's first stint as India's head coach, Sri Lanka managed a 1-1 draw against India in its final round-robin fixture of the 2003 SAFF Championship.

The match is scheduled to kick-off is at 6.30pm and will be telecast live on D Sport.

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