India has been paired with Kuwait, Nepal and Pakistan in the 2023 SAFF Championship

Indian Team

India will serve as the SAFF tournament’s hosts in 2023. Together with Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan, India is a part of competition’s Group A. On May 17, 2023, in New Delhi, it took place during the official draw ceremony. The draw ceremony was presided over by All India Football Federation President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, South Asian Football Federation General Secretary Mr. Anwarul Huq, and AIFF Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran.

Two teams from outside the South Asian region are taking part due to special invitations, namely Lebanon and Kuwait. The competition will begin on June 21 and conclude on July 4 in Bengaluru. Moreover, it will feature eight teams competing for South Asian dominance.

Being the hosts, India was given automatic placement in Group A, which later included Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Maldives, Bhutan, and Bangladesh were grouped with Lebanon. Lebanon however is the highest-ranked team in Group B, at the head of the division.

Mr 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.

Kalyan Chaubey on India

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“Bengaluru is the capital city of the Hero 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.

Igor Stimac, the head coach of India, reaffirmed that the two Middle Eastern nations will make the Championship more challenging.

“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. Moreover 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 opening match of the SAFF Championship 2023 will be between Kuwait and Nepal on June 21 in Bengaluru. Moreover India and Pakistan would play later that day.

On June 22, Group B competition begins with Lebanon playing Bangladesh in the morning. Further Maldives will play Bhutan in the afternoon.

The semi-finals, which will be played on July 1, will feature the two teams from each group. And the final, which will be held on July 4, will follow.

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