India will look to maintain their regional supremacy by winning a record-extending eighth South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship title in Male, Maldives. The Blue Tigers start their 2021 campaign with a mouth-watering clash against neighbours Bangladesh on Monday. (More Football News)
The Blue Tigers are the perennial favourites, winning seven times in the 12 previous editions. On four occasions, they were the runners-up and had finished third once (2003). After the Dhaka heart-break in 2018, Sunil Chhetri & Co will hope to do one better in Male.
For the record, India have never gone winless in two successive editions. And Igor Stimac's men will be aware of the fact that they had lost to the Maldives 1-2 in the last edition's final.
Also, Afghanistan's exit from SAFF means that India have one fewer title contender to worry about, leaving Bangladesh and defending champions Maldives as main rivals. But even Nepal can spring a surprise, as witnessed during the recent two-legged international friendly in the Himalayan kingdom.
In 2015, a resurgent Afghanistan left SAFF to join a more competitive but nascent Central Asian Football Association (CAFA). But before that, they had appeared in three successive finals, all against India.
The 2021 edition follows a round-robin format with the top two making the final, scheduled for October 16. The five-team tournament began on Friday (October 1). Nepal
and Bangladesh registered identical 1-0 wins over the Maldives and Sri Lanka respectively on match day 1.
No India vs Pakistan
Pakistan, the original hosts of the 13th edition, were rendered ineligible to compete after the country's football body was sanctioned by FIFA. Bhutan pulled out of the tournament at the last minute, citing coronavirus pandemic.
India Schedule And Kick-off Times
October 4: Bangladesh vs India (IST 4.30 pm);
October 7: India vs Sri Lanka (IST 4.30 pm);
October 10: Nepal vs India (IST 9.30 pm);
October 13: India vs Maldives (IST 9.30 pm).
* Schedule and timings as per AIFF.
How To Watch
TV Channels: Eurosport/HD
Live Streaming: Discovery+
Bangladesh - T Sports;
Maldives - Yes TV
Sri Lanka - Football Sri Lanka TV
Head coach Stimac announced a 23-man Indian squad on September 23. Udanta Kumam, who missed the friendlies against Nepal, is making a comeback; while Vishal Kaith was named among the three goalkeepers. But Dheeraj Moirangthem failed to make the cut. Defender Akash Mishra, midfielders Bipin Thounajam and Pronay Halder were also left out.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith;
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Seriton Fernandes, Chinglensana Konsham, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai;
Midfielders: Udanta Kumam, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Thounaojam, Glan Martins, Suresh Wangjam, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad;
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.