Holders India are seven-time champions in the competition but this time they didn’t send their best squad
Favourites India looks forward to retain their regional dominance as a youthful national team will begin their Saff Suzuki Cup campaign against a confident Sri Lanka in the opening match of Group B at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday at 7pm.
Holders India are seven-time champions in the competition but this time they didn’t send their best squad. Rather their English coach Stephen Constantine prepared a group of U-23 players to represent the country at the Saff Championship.
"I have always looked at this opportunity to provide some international experience to the youngsters and that's why we have come with a squad consisting of players under-23. Obviously, we have come to win the tournament. We have a fair chance of getting the job done but I won't say that we're going to start as favourites." said 55-year-old Constantine said.
The young troupe began their camp on July 28 at home before flying to Australia for a 17-day long preparatory camp, where they played three friendly matches including one against Sydney FC, which the India coach hoped to be “pretty handy” in the Saff campaign.
Guided by their former national star Packeer Ali as head coach, Sri Lanka on the other hand started with a friendly against Lithuania, before holding camps in Japan and South Korea. Packeer wants to take their friendly win against Bangladesh last week as motivation ahead of the tough group fixtures.
“It was a good preparation in Japan from where we flew to South Korea and there we played two tough matches. The preparation helped us play better against Bangladesh. It was a good boost for us and gave us motivation for the rest of the tournament.” said Packeer during the pre-tournament presser on Monday.
Packeer added, “Both India and Maldives are favourites but it will be decided on the pitch who will go and who will win. Winning and losing is a part of the game and we will try our level best to win.”
Meanwhile, India are the only participant in the meet that ranked among the top 100 (96th) while Sri Lanka ranked 200th. The two sides faced each other 19 times with India winning 12 and Sri Lanka only two while the other five ended in draws.