India face Afghan challenge today

Bangladesh beat Bhutan 4-1

 
India, who are fielding an under-23 side in the regional tournament, cannot afford to take Afghanistan lightly as any slippage in Saturday’s Group A match would make it difficult for them to qualify for the semifinals. 

The side, led by India senior forward Sushil Kumar Singh, has last edition champions Maldives and unpredictable Nepal in their group and a false start in the tournament could prove to be a disaster.

Afghanistan has players in their ranks who ply trade in lower division sides in Germany. The side coached by Mohammed Farid also came with some players that had played in the AFC Challenge Cup hosted and won by India last year.

In a group match in that tournament in Hyderabad, Indian senior side needed an injury time  goal to emerge victorious.

Coach Sukhwinder Singh said his boys know the importance of their opening game and they are not taking Afghanistan lightly. “We respect our tomorrow’s opponent. There are no underdogs in modern football. We want to start the tournament on a winning note,” he said after the team’s two-hour training session.  “We have prepared well for the tournament. 

SAFF Championships have always been a tough tournament to win,” said the coach who was at the helm of affairs when India won the 1999 edition in Goa.Before India play Afghanistan, Maldives take on Nepal in the first match.

Bangla win

Meanwhile, hosts Bangladesh made a convincing start to their campaign by defeating Bhutan 4-1 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.

A brace from Enamul Haque and a goal each from Pranotosh Kumar Das and Zahid Hossain Enamul Haque gave the hosts a convincing victory. Nawang Dhendup scored for Bhutan.

Indian team (from): Sushil Kumar Singh (capt), A Bhatacharya, L Kattimani, D Ravanan, D Franco, N Chetri, Naoba Singh, Ravinder Singh, R Lalthlamuana, R Rodrigues, Baldip Singh, Balwant Singh, Jagpreet Singh, Jewel Raja, Jibbon Singh, J Abranches, Subodh, Jagtar Singh, M Maitahni, J Lalpeklua.

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