The Golden Army begin their campaign against Bangladesh on October 1.
India will lock horns with fellow South Asian nation Sri Lanka in the SAFF Championship. The match will take place on October 7, 2021, in the Maldives. Sri Lanka have been on a losing streak that has lasted for over two years. Their last win came in 2019, when they won 3-0 against Macau in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. With one win and 13 defeats in their last 15 games, not much is expected from Sri Lanka in this competition.
India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal are participating teams in the biennial tournament. Sri Lanka’s last two meetings against India came in the previous two editions of the SAAFF Championships. On both occasions, the Blue Tigers registered comfortable 2-0 victories.
As mentioned above, Sri Lanka are coming into the tournament with no wins in over two years. Just one win in their last 15 matches shows how much the Island nation are struggling. Amir Alagic’s side have conceded two or more goals in each of their last eight matches. Their most recent game was a 5-0 drubbing they received at the hands of South Korea. Sri Lanka have scored only two goals in their last seven games, both coming in the 3-2 loss against Lebanon.
About The Team
Most of Sri Lanka’s players are based in the country. Marvin Hamilton and youngster Dillon De Silva play in England with the former playing for non-league side Burgess Hill and the latter for the U-23 team of former Premier League club Queens Park Rangers. The squad consists of players, who have decent experience of playing for the country, with most of them in their late 20s.
Amir Alagic, 61, has been the head coach of Sri Lanka since February 2020. The Golden Army have lost both the games he has managed until now. His reign started with a 5-0 loss to South Korea before the 3-2 defeat against Palestine.
In a 25 year-long managerial career spanning across several clubs and continents, the most notable of his spells came during his time as the assistant manager of German side Werder Bremen. Alagic was also with East Bengal as the head of their training school between 2012 and 2013.
Despite being eligible to represent the likes of Nigeria and England, Hamilton plays for the Sri Lanka national team, for which he qualifies through his mother. This midfielder is Sri Lanka’s star man. He needs to be at his best if they are to have a chance in the tournament.
The 32-year-old has had a nomadic career in the lower leagues of English football. He now turns out for Burgess Hill Town, a club that play in the Isthmian League South East.
Dillon De Silva
The 19-year-old started with the Tottenham Hotspur academy after unsuccessful trials at Arsenal. Dillon De Silva made his first-team debut for the national team under current coach Amir Alagic. He has played both games since Alagic took over the national team. The winger currently plays for Queens Park Rangers’ U-23 side.
The youngster is, however, yet to make his Championship debut for QPR and has mostly played in the FA Youth Cup. He was called up to the first-team in December for the game against Stoke City, but remained an unused substitute.
Since arriving in West London in 2017, the winger has quickly risen through the youth ranks at the London club, having featured heavily for both the U-18s and U-23s sides before getting called up to the first-team squad.
Kavindu Ishan has been a regular for the national team for the better part of the last eight years. Infact, he even scored for the national team in a 1-1 draw against Macau in 2016. The midfielder turns up for Air Force FC in the Sri Lankan Premier League and is considered to be one of the squad’s most important players.
What To Expect
With a new coach at the helm, Sri Lanka fans would do well to not hype their expectations from the SAFF Championship. Ranked 205 in the FIFA rankings, the Golden Army have lost their last eight matches and managed to find the net in only two of those games. They bowed out of the competition from the group stage in the last edition of the SAFF Championship but did make the semis in the 2015 edition. Coach Amir Alagaic will want his team to recall that performance and use it spur his boys in the tournament.