Champions India handed easy draw

Defending champions India were handed a relatively easier draw on Tuesday for the South Asian Football Federation Championship which begins here on September 1.

India, the second highest ranked team at 146, have been pooled in Group ‘A’ alongside hosts and last edition semifinalists Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the biennial regional tournament.
Last edition runners-up and highest ranked team in the tournament, Afghanistan (140th), 2008 edition champions Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan form the Group B in the September 1-11 event.

Afghanistan had drawn with India 1-1 at the group stage in the 2011 edition in New Delhi though they lost in the final. Maldives are the fourth highest-ranked team at 154th.
India will open their campaign against neighbours Pakistan on September 1. They will clash with Bangladesh and Nepal on September 3 and 5 respectively.

Top two teams from each group will qualify for the semifinals to be played on September 8.
The winners of the tournament will get USD 50,000 while the runners-up with pocket USD 25,000. The two losing semifinalists will get USD 10,000 each.

The draw was conducted by Harish Krishnamachar, WSG senior Vice-President and Country head, and attended by All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa and SAFF President Kazi Mohammed Salahuddin.

India have just one international friendly to play, against Tajikistan on August 14 in Dushanbe, before the eight-team SAFF Championships.

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