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SAFF Championship 2023: All You Need To Know About India’s 9th Title Quest

SAFF Championship 2023: India is placed in Group A, alongside Pakistan, Nepal and Kuwait.

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Football
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Whilst every competition poses varying challenges, the Indian football team could not have asked for a better start in what is, in the broader sense, regarded as the preparatory phase for a gruelling, baptism-by-fire AFC Asian Cup campaign in January 2024.

The Blue Tigers recently clinched the 2023 Intercontinental Cup title, courtesy of goals from Sunil Chhetri and Lallianzuala Chhangte in the final against Lebanon, and now, attention will turn to the 2023 SAFF Championship – second among the four tournaments India will play before the Asian Cup.

Here’s all you need to know about the SAFF Championship:

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Who Are the Teams Playing in SAFF Championship 2023?

Organised by the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), eight teams will be competing in the 14th edition of the SAFF Championship. Six of these teams – India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh – will represent South Asia, with a couple of invitees from West Asia, in Kuwait and Lebanon.

Which Teams Will India Face?

India have been placed in Group A of the competition, alongside Pakistan, Nepal and Kuwait. In terms of FIFA’s men’s team rankings, Igor Stimac’s team will be the strongest side of the lot, with a ranking of 101. Kuwait stands second at 143, followed by Nepal (174) and Pakistan (195).

Lebanon, who are ranked highest among the eight teams (99) but suffered a defeat in the Intercontinental Cup final, will face Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh in Group B.

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What Is India’s Schedule?

India will commence their journey today, 21 June, with a match against Pakistan. Chhetri & Co. will then face Nepal on 24 June, followed by an encounter against Kuwait on 27 June. Should they finish the group stage campaign in the top two positions, India will compete in the semi-finals on 1 July, with the final set to be held on 4 July.

How Is India’s Record in the SAFF Championship?

Despite limited progress in the Asian Cup, India have always been the most dominant footballing force in South Asia, with their records in SAFF Championship offering testimony to the statement.

The Blue Tigers have won eight of the previous thirteen editions of this competition, whilst missing out on a final appearance only once – way back in 2003. In the previous instalment, held in Maldives a couple of years ago, India defeated Nepal 3-0 in the final to lift the trophy.
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Who Are India’s Key Players?

The omnipresent Sunil Chhetri, who bagged two goals in the Intercontinental Cup, is once again likely to be India’s trump card – for the umpteenth time in his career. Barring the skipper, however, Lallianzuala Chhangte has also been impressive in recent weeks, having scored against Mongolia and Lebanon. Manipuri winger Naorem Mahesh Singh and Kerala Blasters’ midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad are a few of the other players who have been among India’s better performers in the last few matches.

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