India have won the tournament for a record seven times and also are the defending champions.
The official draw for the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 was announced on Wednesday morning in Dhaka. This will be the third time Bangladesh will be hosting the tournament, after the 2003 and 2009 editions where they finished their campaign as champions and semi-finalists respectively.
The 2018 edition of the championship will consist of seven countries from South Asia. Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka will also take part in the event which is scheduled to start from September 4.
India will ply their trade in Group B in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018
India are the current defending champions and have won the title a record seven times. Under Stephen Constantine and skipper Sunil Chhetri they will now look to keep hold of it.
The draw saw the seven sides being divided into two groups with India being put in Group B. Group A consists of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan, whereas Group B is made up of three teams- India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka will host all the matches in September. With the championship returning to Bangladesh for the third time, the Bengal Tigers are looking forward to win the title for the second time.
“Today we raised the curtain on what will be the 12th edition of our region’s biggest and most important international football tournament,” said SAFF President Kazi Md Salahuddin before adding, “Since our first tournament in 1993 in Lahore our tournament has made great strides forward and our organization is truly proud to be here today boasting seven fine footballing nations.”
Salahuddin also talked about why the tournament is important for the hosts this time around, “The SAFF Suzuki Cup plays such an important role in raising the profile of football in our region and inspiring our younger generation to play the game.”
The championship, which originally began with a round robin league system back in 1993, will begin with a group stage and will proceed to the knockout stages (semi-final and final) later.
After the Blue Tiger’s AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign which ended with a defeat against the Kyrgyz Republic last month, this tournament will be one preparatory opportunity for Constantine and the Men in Blue. The SAFF Suzuki Cup precedes India’s campaign in the upcoming Asian Games (Jakarta Palembang 2018) in August this year and will be a vital series of games for the Indian youngsters to prove their worth ahead of the Asian Cup next year.