India have been drawn in Group A of the SAFF Championship 2023 along with Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Lebanon and Kuwait are the two teams from outside the South Asian region, who are participating via 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.
AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey, at the start of the draw ceremony, said, “I would like to convey my deep gratitude to the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) for acquiescing 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.”
He further said, “Our effort remains to play around 20-25 quality matches, and we have already seen that process begin with the Hero 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,” said he.
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 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 the mental strength and passing confidence,” he said.
The SAFF Championship 2023 will get 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.
Group A: India (101), Kuwait (143), Nepal (174), Pakistan (195).
Group B: Lebanon (99), Maldives (154), Bhutan (185), Bangladesh (192).
Kuwait vs Nepal, 3.30 pm IST.
India vs Pakistan, 7.30 pm IST.
Lebanon vs Bangladesh, 3.30 pm IST.
Maldives vs Bhutan, 7.30 pm IST.
Pakistan vs Kuwait, 3.30 pm IST.
Nepal vs India, 7.30 pm IST.
Bangladesh vs Maldives, 3.30 pm IST.
Bhutan vs Lebanon, 7.30 pm IST.
Nepal vs Pakistan, 3.30 pm IST.
India vs Kuwait, 7.30 pm IST.
Lebanon vs Maldives, 3.30 pm IST.
Bhutan vs Bangladesh, 7.30 pm IST.
Group A winners vs Group B runners-ups, TBC.
Group B winners vs Group A runners-ups, TBC.
July 4: Semi-final 1 Winners vs Semi-final 2 Winners, TBC.