Vol. 5 Num 479 Fri. September 30, 2005  

SAAF C'ship Draw Held
Bangladesh open against Bhutan

Defending champions Bangladesh will kick off their Fourth SAAF Football Championship campaign against rank-outsiders Bhutan on December 8 in Karachi.

Bangladesh, who won their maiden title defeating Maldives in the tiebreaker in March 2003 in Dhaka, have also drawn arch-rivals and two-time winners India in Group B. Nepal complete the group.

The eight-nation biennial event of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), originally scheduled to begin on December 8, will get underway on December 7 in the Pakistani port city.

The draw was organised by the SAFF at a hotel in Singapore on Thursday.

Group A comprises last year's runners-up Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and hosts Pakistan.

On the opening day, Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka while Maldives play Afghanistan, who made their SAFF football debut three years ago.

SAFF chairman Ganesh Thapa, secretary Sirajul Islam Bachchu, Asian Football Confederation general secretary Peter Velappan, vice-president Monilal Fernando and representatives from all eight nations were present.

Avoiding the hosts will definitely satisfy the holders as they have a poor track record against Pakistan on their home soil. Maldives have also proved to be a bogey team for Bangladesh since they have not won against the islanders in a decade.

In the previous SAFF competition, Bangladesh drew both their matches -- in the group and the final -- against Maldives before taking the honours in a penalty shootout.

However, teams like India -- the top ranked among the participants who won the first two editions -- and Nepal -- known for their stubbornness -- will also bid strongly for the two semifinal spots.

The national team has already begun their training under Argentine coach Diego Andres Cruciani and trainer Victor Ariel Colman. The preliminary squad is now at the BKSP in residential camp.

Bangladesh will participate in a four-nation tournament involving China, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in Myanmar next month as part of their preparation.

GROUP A: Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan.
GROUP B: Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.