Tough group for Pakistan as SAFF draws held [DAWN]

Sports Reporter – DAWN

KARACHI: Pakistan were drawn in a tough Group ‘A’ alongside defending champions and arch-rivals India, hosts Nepal and Bangladesh for the SAFF Championships scheduled to be held from September 1 to 15 in Kathmandu.

Zavisa Milosavljevic’s charges will open their campaign against India on the opening day of the event before playing their other group matches against Nepal and Bangladesh.

“It is a tough group and a tough challenge for us,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn after Tuesday’s draw, at the end of the SAFF U-16 Championship which was won by India.

Serb Milosavljevic is back in the country after completing his UEFA License course in his native country and the PFF is hoping to give the team a good warm-up by pitting them against Bangladesh and Afghanistan in a series of friendlies ahead of the event.

“Hopefully we’ll by playing warm-up games against Bangladesh (Aug 13th & 16th) and Afghanistan (Aug 20th) to prepare for the event,” Lodhi said, adding that the training camp for South Asia’s marquee competition will start from Friday.

Meanwhile, Group ‘B’ will see last edition’s finalists and highest-ranked team in the tournament Afghanistan fight it out with the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals which will be played on September 8.

The final is slated for September 11.

The winners of the tournament will get $50,000 while the runners-up with pocket $25,000.

Group-stage fixtures:

September 1 (Group ‘A’): India v Pakistan; Nepal v Bangladesh.

September 2 (Group ‘B’): Afghanistan v Bhutan; Maldives v Sri Lanka.

September 3 (Group ‘A’): Pakistan v Nepal; Bangladesh v India.

September 4 (Group ‘B’): Bhutan v Maldives; Sri Lanka v Afghanistan.

September 5 (Group ‘A’): India v Nepal; Bangladesh v Pakistan.

September 6 (Group ‘B’): Afghanistan v Maldives; Sri Lanka v Bhutan.