The South Asia’s biggest football tournament is around the corner and the defending champions India are confident to lift the cup for one more time. The Indian Men’s National Team has been grouped with South Asian neighbours the Maldives and Sri Lanka in Group B. Led by Stephen Constantine, the U-23 had put their heart and soul during their training session and are favourites to lift the trophy.
The first edition of the tournament was held in 1993 and was called the South Asian Association of Regional Corporation Gold Cup (SAARC Gold Cup). The tournament was held in Lahore and was played amongst SAARC Nations: India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and India won the cup. So far India have won the Cup a record seven times and been runners-up thrice while Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka have each tasted victory once.
Seven teams will participate in the sub-continental football championship in September 2018 in Bangladesh. This will be the third time, Bangladesh would host the tournament. The tournament is all set to run from 4th September 2018 to 15th September 2018. The host nation has been grouped with Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan in Group A. Team India will begin their campaign against Sri Lanka on 5th September, 2018. This year all the eyes will be on these three players:
Twenty-three-year-old forward Sumeet Passi will be the sole senior player in this Stephen Constantine side. Passi made his debut for the senior side in 2016 against Laos in an AFC Asian Cup qualification match. He scored his debut goal in the second leg of the tie and was soon a sought-after player in the Indian domestic league. Passi will have a lot to prove following a disappointing domestic season with debutants Jamshedpur FC where he was sidelined for the majority of the season due to injury.
The former Bengaluru FC left-back was one of the most important cogs in Alber Roca’s system that reached the Indian Super League 2017-18 finals. After catching the attention of National team coach Stephen Constantine, Bose, who will turn 23 this month, made his international debut against Chinese Taipei in the opening tie of the Hero Intercontinental Cup. Bose will be a key figure in the Blue Tigers’ backline.
Lallianzuala Chhangte is one of the brightest young talents to have emerged from the immense talent pool that is the North-East of India. The pacey winger scored two goals for India in their 4–1 win over Nepal in the 2015 SAFF Championship – the third youngest goal scorer for India’s senior national team at the age of 18 years 140 days after Jerry Zirsanga and Baichung Bhutia. Chhangte currently plays for the Indian Super League club Delhi Dynamos. “I like the football Chhangte plays. He not only plays football for enjoyment, he plays football for rotation of the ball, passes the ball to the wing and crosses well towards goal,” said Miguel Angel Portugal, former Delhi Dynamos Head Coach about winger.
Group A: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan
Group B: India, Sri Lanka, Maldives
The top two teams from each group will proceed to the next round (Semi-finals) and the final.
India’s 1st Match: 5th September against Sri Lanka
2nd match: 9th September against Maldives
Finals: 15th September
India Squad List:
Goalkeepers: Vishal Kaith, Kamaljit Singh, Sukhdev Patil
Defenders: Salam Ranjan, Davinder Singh, Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Mohamad Sajid Dhot, Jerry Lalrinzuala
Midfielders: Nikhil Poojary, Isaac Vanmalswama, Vinit Rai, Nandha Kumar, Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Vignesh D
Forwards: Sumit Parsi, Hitesh Sharma, Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary.