DHAKA, April 18, 2018 (BSS) – There was some sigh of relief for local football organizers as host Bangladesh were drawn with Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan in Group A as the draw ceremony took place in Dhaka Wednesday, ahead of the SAFF Championship 2018, scheduled to be held from September 4-15.
Seven-time winner India, Maldives and Sri Lanka make up Group B.
In the early years Bangladesh used to take part in the SAFF Championship with a target to win the prestigious regional title, it has now turned into nightmare for Bangladesh following the elimination from the group stage in last three successive editions.
The local pundits believes that this qualifying for the final should be a big achievements and one hopes Bangladesh this have a good opportunity to progress to the last-four battle, a stage Bangladesh last reached in 2009 when they hosted the 9th edition SAFF Championship.
Bangladesh first hosted the same championship in 2003 and became champions on home ground. In last three editions, Bangladesh were comparatively placed in strong groups featuring the teams like Afghanistan, Maldives and Nepal, three teams Bangladesh could not beat in last three editions but this time Bangladesh have got an easy group like what they were placed in the 2009 edition they hosted in Dhaka.
That time Bangladesh were pitted against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bhutan and became group champions to advance to the semifinals and this time Nepal have come in place of Sri Lanka while other opponents remained the same. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals. Nepal and Pakistan will face off in the inaugural game at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka while Bangladesh will take on Bhutan in the second match of the opening day.
The group stage matches will be held from September 4-9 following which the semi-finals will take place on September 12. The grand finale is slated for September 15. All the games will be hosted by BNS.
The 12th edition of the SAFF Championship was initially scheduled to be hosted by Bangladesh in December last year before being pushed back to September this year. This will be the third time Bangladesh will be hosting the regional football championship after 2003 and 2009 where the home side emerged as the champion and semi-finalist respectively.
BFF and SAFF president Kazi Salahuddin, senior vice-president Abdus Salam Murshedy, vice-president and national team management committee chairman Kazi Nabil ahmed and BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag were present among others during the occasion.
The draw was conducted by SAFF general secretary Anwarul Haque Helal.
Group A: Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan Group B: India, Maldives and Sri Lanka