The South Asian country had won the prestigious trophy in 1995.
The SAFF Suzuki Cup is all set to kick-off. This will be the 12th edition of the event and it is all set to be organized in Bangladesh, from the 4th to the 15th of September 2018. The host nation have been drawn with Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan in Group A, while India, Maldives and Sri Lanka comprise of Group B. The top two teams from each group will make it to the semi-finals and all the games will be hosted at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka.
In this article, we shall take a look at the Sri Lankan team, examine their key players and try to figure out what chances they have of winning the tournament this year.
About The Tournament
The SAFF Championship is a biennial international men’s football competition in South Asia. In 2016, it was decided that Bangladesh would host the tournament in 2017, but controversies regarding the non-participation of Afghanistan caused it to be delayed by a year. It is finally happening next month and one can expect two weeks of intense footballing action to be on show.
India are the record winners of the competition, having done so seven times and are also the defending champions. Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka have each won once, while Nepal and Pakistan’s best performances have been third-place finishes. Bhutan’s best showing came at the 2008 SAFF Cup in which they made it to the semi-finals.
About The Team
Sri Lanka will look to add another SAFF Cup title to their cabinet
Sri Lanka is not a country that is madly passionate about football and their performances over the last decade or so reflect the same. Currently ranked 220 in the FIFA rankings, the island nation severely lacks the skills and infrastructure needed to improve the standard of the game. Despite these handicaps, they made history by winning the 1995 SAFF Cup, but that turned out to be nothing more than a false dawn.
Last Year’s Performance
In spite of having several colossal obstacles, the Sri Lankan team has always punched above their weight. In the 2015 SAFF Cup, they beat Nepal in the group stage to make it to the semi-finals, but were thrashed 5-0 by then defending champions Afghanistan.
Nizam Packeer Ali replaced Dudley Steinwell as the head coach of the Sri Lankan national team
Nizam Packeer Ali took over as head coach of the Sri Lankan national team earlier this year from Dudley Steinwell. The former Sri Lankan international was previously managing Bangladesh Premier League football franchise “Team BJMC” in 2015 and earlier led Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club to the Bangladesh League title in 2011.
Players to Watch
With 18 appearances under his belt for his side, the 26-year-old goalkeeper is one of the pillars of the squad. Domestically, he plies his trade for Club Eagles in the Maldivian League and is easily one of the best in his position in the country. If Sri Lanka are to achieve anything of note in this year’s competition, he will have to be at his very best.
The attacking midfielder made his debut for Sri Lanka only last month, but he is already being touted as one of the most exciting players in the country. He was particularly impressive against 126th ranked Lithunia against whom, the Lankans managed to hold out for a 0-0 draw and will be looking to unleash his potential on a much bigger stage in the SAFF Cup.
The Colombo SC midfielder made his bow for the national team in 2016 and has been a constant ever since. Blessed with good technique and pace, he will be the creative fulcrum of the Sri Lankan side and will need to be at his best if he and his team are to qualify from the group stage.
What to Expect
It would be wrong to expect a lot from Sri Lanka given the quality of the side, but they have always managed to surprise, even when the chips are down. As such, it would not be a big shock to see them get the better of at least, Nepal in the group stage and make it to the last four.
Subash Madushan (Navy SC), Charitha Rathnayake (Colombo FC), Kaveesh Fernando (Colombo FC), Chathuranga Perera (Army SC), Jude Suman (Renown SC), Mohamed Rifnaz (Colombo FC), Udaya Keerthi Kumara (Army SC), Danushka Rajapaksha (New Youngs FC), Mariyathas Nitharshan (Renown SC), Duckson Piuslas (New Youngs FC), Afeel Mohamed (Colombo FC), Chathura Lakshan Dananjaya (New Youngs FC), Rasik Rishad (Renown SC), Asikur Rahuman (Army SC), Asela Madushan (Renown SC), Shabeer Razooniya(Police SC), Samith Fernando (Army SC), Mohamed Musthaq (Crystal Palace FC), Chameera Sajith Kumara(Army SC), Mohamed Fazal (Colombo FC), Zarwan Johar (Colombo FC), Sasanka Dilhara (Ratnam SC), Mohamed Hasmeer (Navy SC), Sujan Perera (Club Eagles)