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Dhaka Tribune

Contenders confident of success at Saff

Update : 30 Aug 2013, 05:38 PM

Bangladesh will play hosts Nepal in the opening match of the “most competitive” game in the South Asian Football Federation Championship to date at the Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal at 6:45 pm today.

Why is the match the “the most competitive” of the tournament? The official press briefing at the Hotel Everest yesterday indicated as much. With the exception of Bhutan and Sri Lanka, the other six teams in the meet expressed confidence in lifting the trophy. Defending champions India, last editions runner-up and the highest ranked team in the tournament Afghanistan, hosts Nepal – who are trying to keep a low profile despite their ambitions - and former champions Bangladesh, were clearly looking for nothing less than the ultimate prize.

India’s Dutch coach Win Koevermans, the most high-profile name in his category at the tournament, was cautious in his assessment. “We are here to defend the title but for that, we have to play five finals. In our group, I respect every team. Though we have only 20 days of practice, we won the Nehru Cup and after that, the players were in the pre-season training. We want to go steady and against Pakistan, it would be one of the five matches,” said Koevermans.

Yousef Karagar, the Afghanistan coach, was also brimming with confidence. “We see we are dubbed as the favourites but we don’t think like that.

We want to show our character in the field. We admit that the preparations of the team is not that good but the players are professional and we want win the title this time, as we failed to take it home two years ago.”

Jack Stefanowski, the Polish born American who coaches the Nepal team, said, “The crowds are there, the players are ready, the expectations of Nepalese fans are very high and the footballers are ready to win the title.”

Lodewijk de Kruif, Bangladesh’s Dutch coach, was cautious in expressing his expectations.  “As a professional, I am focused to win the title but I don’t want to term Bangladesh as favourites. We are outsiders but we want to win the title.”

With four serious contenders and Maldives – a former winner also raring to go - the 8th edition of the Saff Championship looks like it might be a thrilling spectacle in which anyone of a number of sides may emerge triumphant, and the on-field play promises to be of an exciting brand.

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