SAFF Championship 2023: Final fixtures and dates announced
The defending champions, India, have been drawn alongside Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan in Group A of the 2023 SAFF Championship, which will be held in Bengaluru, Karnataka from June 21 to July 4.
The defending champions, India, have been drawn alongside Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan in Group A of the 2023 SAFF Championship, which will be held at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru, Karnataka from June 21 to July 4.
India are the second highest-ranked team in the tournament, with only Lebanon ahead of them. The side, which will also participate in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup, have been placed in Group B alongside Maldives, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. These two groups will compete in round-robin matches, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.
As part of their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, scheduled for January 2024, the Blue Tigers will first compete in the Hero Intercontinental Cup in June. Following this, they will shift their focus to the SAFF Championship, with the aim of enhancing their gameplay and strengthening their squad for the upcoming continental tournament.
The host nation, India, will be joined by five nations from the South Asian Football Federation, while Kuwait and Lebanon, two nations from outside the South Asian region, have been invited as guest teams.
The Indian men's senior national team head coach, Igor Stimac, who has consistently advocated for a prolonged training camp, shared his reaction to the draw and expressed his views regarding the ongoing preparations for the AFC Asian Cup.
“We are very happy to host the SAFF tournament, and as such, we need to behave and act as the favourites to win it. We also welcome Kuwait and Lebanon as guests, and participants and hope they will enjoy their stay in India and the tournament itself. Playing against them should help us in our preparations for the AFC Cup and our boys are really excited, and determined to do well,” said Stimac.
“A long-duration camp was always something we were insisting on and we are going to use it to improve certain parts of our game, work more on mental strength and passing confidence,” he added.
The 14th edition of the SAFF Championship is scheduled to commence on June 21, with Kuwait facing Nepal in the opening match. Later on the same day, India will kick off their campaign against neighbours Pakistan.
Here is the full set of fixtures:
June 21, 2023
Kuwait vs Nepal, 15:30 IST.
India vs Pakistan, 19:30 IST.
June 22, 2023
Lebanon vs Bangladesh, 15:30 IST.
Maldives vs Bhutan, 19:30 IST.
June 24, 2023
Pakistan vs Kuwait, 15:30 IST.
Nepal vs India, 19:30 IST.
June 25, 2023
Bangladesh vs Maldives, 15:30 IST.
Bhutan vs Lebanon, 19:30 IST.
June 27, 2023
Nepal vs Pakistan, 15:30 IST.
India vs Kuwait, 19:30 IST.
June 28, 2023
Lebanon vs Maldives, 15:30 IST.
Bhutan vs Bangladesh, 19:30 IST.
July 1, 2023
Champion Group A vs Runner-up Group B, TBC.
Champion Group B vs Runner-up Group A, TBC.
July 4, 2023
Winner semi-final 1 vs Winner semi-final 2, TBC.