The Golden Army will be keen to clinch their first title after 1995.

Sri Lanka will begin their SAFF Championship 2021 campaign on October 1 against Bangladesh. The side that will travel to Maldives was recently revealed and will be headed by manager Amir Alagic.  

The Australian-Bosnian will want his men to end their 10-match losing streak in order to start afresh in the championship. Sri Lanka tasted their last victory in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers against Macau back in 2019. They have played 10 games since, losing all of them.

The Sri Lankans come into the SAFF Championship after back-to-back defeats against South Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates among others. Amir Alagic has tweaked his squad with a few changes post the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers. But, only time will tell if these changes will make themselves count.

Here’s a brief analysis of the Sri Lankan squad ahead of SAFF Championship 2021.

Goalkeepers

The island nation has been on the receiving end of 32 goals in their last eight outings. But, they’ll hope to bring a change in their fortunes at the forthcoming SAFF Championship campaign.

Sujan Perera, the Sri Lanka national team captain is expected to lead his side from the back. He will have an edge over his compatriots to start between the sticks. He is Amir Alagic’s first choice goalkeeper and has played both the games since Alagic became the head coach.

Perera has 32 caps for the Golden Army and is the most experienced campaigner in their 23-man squad. The back-up duo among the shot-stoppers includes Prabath Arunasiri and Danushka Rajapaksha. Arunasiri has made four appearances for the Sri Lankan national team, while Rajapaksha is yet to make his debut.

Defenders

SAFF Championship Sri Lanka
The Islanders took on South Korea and lost in the recent FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers (Courtesy: football_srilanka/Instagram)

The Sri Lankan backline has failed to keep a clean-sheet for over two years now and has let in over 30 goals.

Their defence includes Duckson Puslas, Charitha Rathnayake, Asikur Rahuman, Harsha Fernando, Sunil Roshan Appuhamy and Chamod Dilshan. They have a good mixture of experience and youth, starting from the highly experienced 31-year-old Puslas to 24-year-old Dilshan.

Except Dilshan (one) and Roshan (three), all the defenders in the Sri Lankan squad have over 10 international caps. Charitha Rathnayake and Harsha Fernando are expected to make it to starting XI as full-backs. Chamod Dilshan and Duckson Puklas are likely to be the first-choice centre-back duo. The Golden Army will be highly dependent on them to keep things subtle at the back.

Midfielders

Amir Alegic has called up 10 midfielders into the 23-men Sri Lanka squad for the SAFF Championship 2021. This signifies the importance of the midfield in his system. Alegic prefers a five-man midfield with a single pivot or a four-man midfield with a five-man defence. Ahmed Waseem Razeek, Marvin Hamilton, Mohamed Fazal, Kavindu Ishan and Dillon De Silva are expected to form the midfield five.

Razeek can also slot as a striker and has already scored two goals in four matches for Sri Lanka. Fazal is another core member of the team. He has found the back of the net once in 17 outings. Hamilton and De Silva will have huge roles to shoulder. Both of them ply their trades in England and their experience will be very handy for Amir Alegic’s side.

Kavindu Ishan is considered as one of the important players of the squad. The 28-year-old has made 30 international appearances and has also scored a goal. The midfield will have the duty to ensure the smooth transition of the ball into the opponent half.

Forwards

The Sri Lanka forward line will have a lot to prove in the upcoming SAFF Championship 2021. They’ve maintained a belo- par reputation when it comes to scoring. In their last eight outings. Their strikers have found the back of the net just thrice. Amir Alegic has called up four young forwards for the SAFF Championship, with the hope of turning things around.

Mohamed Aakib, 21, is the most experienced striker in the forward line. The 21-year-old has two goals to boot in 10 games for Sri Lanka. Mohamed Musthaq has come up through the U-23 national team ranks. The forward scored his debut national team goal against the UAE in 2019. Rifkhan Mohamed and Supun Dhananjay are the other two forwards who don’t have much experience.

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