Defending champion India will kick-off their Group B encounter against one-time champion Sri Lanka today at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
India is the most successful side in this competition with seven titles at their cabinet, while Sri Lanka won the tournament in 1995.
India and Sri Lanka is in Group B alongside Maldives. Only two teams will surpass into the semifinal. So, every game is crucial for each team.
India will field U-23 squad for this tournament. They had a training camp in Delhi and a tour to Australia where they played 3 friendly matches before the tournament.
Senior strikers like Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua will sit out of the tournament, along with many other first-teamers. So, it is up to the younger generation to step up and defend the title.
Young defender Subhasish Bose will captain Indian U-23 national team in the opening match of the tournament.
Sri Lanka camped Japan & South Korea ahead of this tournament and did the preparation well. They also played two friendlies with Lithuania where they drew one and lost one. They also played a friendly against tournament host Bangladesh 1-0 in a friendly at Bangabandhu stadium and won infront of thirty thousand spectators.
Sri Lanka has picked a squad of players with the experienced goalkeeper Sujan Perera, who has been playing in Maldives for last few years. He has been marked as the best goalkeeper in Maldivian league recently. Subash Madushan of Navy SC has been appointed as the Captain of the squad.
Sri Lanka have conceded at least two goals in four of their five group games against India in the SAFF Suzuki Cup.
WHAT MANAGERS SAY:
Indian Head coach Stephen Constantine said that they come from a very effective camp in Australia. “We had three very different sorts of game and their boys have worked very hard to make a point. Facing some of the good sides in this tournament would be a real challenge for us and this is the best scenario to test ourselves.” he added.
Sri Lanka Coach Nizam Packeer Ali said, “better team” will have an edge on the ground. He also said that there are no favorites and once the match kicks-off and the better team will win eventually. “It’s very crucial to start the campaign with a positive result and we’re up for it.” he said.
HEAD TO HEAD
India have been on the winning side 15 times against their neighbors out of the 22 meeting in all competitions.
The only time Sri Lanka won against India in SAFF Championship is in 1995 final when they beat legendary Bhaichung Bhutia’s side 1-0 after extra time. 108th minute goal from Sarath Wellage won the tournament for the Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka failed to score a goal against India in the last two SAFF Championship meetings in 2011 and 2015.