Tuesday, June 18, 2024

SAFF Championship 2023: India drawn against Kuwait, Nepal, Pakistan in Group A

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | May 17, 2023 05:52 PM

NEW DELHI: Hosts India were drawn in Group A of the SAFF Championship 2023, along with Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan, in the official draw ceremony that was conducted, here on Wednesday.

The draw was conducted in presence of All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Chaubey, South Asian Football Federation General Secretary Anwarul Huq, and AIFF Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran.

Lebanon and Kuwait are the two teams from outside the South Asian region, who are participating by dint of special invitation. Eight teams are set to fight it out for South Asian supremacy in Bengaluru, as the tournament is set to get underway on June 21, with the final on July 4 in Bengaluru.

India, being the hosts, were automatically placed atop Group A, with Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan drawn into the group later. Over in Group B, Lebanon, being the highest ranked team, were automatically placed at the top of the group, with the Maldives, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

"I would like to convey my deep gratitude to the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) for acquiescing to our request of inviting more countries from outside the South Asian region to participate in this Championship. I feel that the addition of Kuwait and Lebanon will help make the Championship more competitive, and I am deeply thankful to the SAFF for taking our recommendation into consideration," said Chaubey, at the start of the draw ceremony.

"Our effort remains to play around 20-25 quality matches, and we have already seen that process begin with the Tri-Nation Cup in Imphal. Now, our team will also play the Hero Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneswar, followed by the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru. They are also set to play the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia and the King's Cup in Thailand later this year.

Bengaluru is the capital city of the Santosh Trophy champions, and it has excellent facilities. It is our hope that more fans come to support our team in Bengaluru, and push the boys forward," he added.

On the other hand, SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Huq called SAFF, an ambassador for regional unity and sporting excellence.

"On behalf of SAFF, it is my honour and privilege to welcome everyone to Delhi for the official draw Ceremony. Today, we witness the beginning of the journey that unites nations. The SAFF has been an ambassador for regional unity and sporting excellence, and we are happy to bring all countries together, fostering brotherhood, cultural togetherness, and the power of hope to transcend boundaries," said Huq.

"Today marks the first day towards this extraordinary tournament with teams from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan from South Asia, and also our two invitees Lebanon and Kuwait. Let's all come together as a region united by the joy of football," he added.

Meanwhile, AIFF Secretary General Prabhakaran said that the addition of Lebanon and Kuwait wll add to the competitiveness of the tournament.

"With Lebanon and Kuwait being added to the SAFF Championship, the competitiveness of the tournament is set to be elevated further, and it would also help our preparations for the AFC Asian Cup. For us, retaining the SAFF Championship is also a focus, and we are sure that our team is better prepared than the last edition and our team will do well and be champions this time too," he said.

India head coach Igor Stimac reiterated that the competitiveness of the Championship will be higher with the addition of the two teams from the Middle East.

"We are very happy to host the SAFF tournament, and as such, we need to behave and act as the favourites to win it. We also welcome Kuwait and Lebanon as guests, participants and hope they will enjoy their stay in India and the tournament itself. Playing against them should help us in our preparations for the AFC Cup and our boys are really excited, and determined to do well," said Stimac.

"A long duration camp was always something we were insisting on and we are going to use it to improve certain parts of our game, work more on mental strength and passing confidence," he added.

The SAFF Championship 2023 gets underway on June 21, with Kuwait taking on Nepal in Bengaluru, followed by the match between India and Pakistan later in the same day.

Group B action gets underway on June 22, with Lebanon taking on Bangladesh in the first match of the day, while Maldives play Bhutan after that.

The two teams from each group will enter the semi-finals, which will be played on July 1, while the final will be played on July 4.

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