As we inch closer to the 10th South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) in Nepal, TheHardTackle profiles all the teams participating highlighting the players to watch out for from each side.
Currently ranked 168 in the FIFA Rankings, Pakistan are placed in Group A along hosts Nepal, Bangladesh and defending champions India. Pakistan was annihilated by Afghanistan in a recent friendly (20th August), which was before some of their international arrived to strengthen the squad. Here is the squad of the Green Shirts:-
Goalkeepers – Yousuf Butt, Saqib Hanif, Muzammil Hussain
Defenders – Samar Ishaq, Yaqoob Butt, Kamran Khan, Ahsanullah, Muhammad Ahmed, Mohammad Hameed, Zesh Rehman, Amjad Iqbal
Midfielders – Adnan Ahmed, Muhammad Adil, Yasir Afridi, Saddam Hussain, Zia Us Salam, Faisal Iqbal, Naveed Ahmed, Mohammad Riaz
Forwards – Hassan Bashir, Kaleemullah, Saeed Ahmed, Muhammad Mujahid
Players to watch out for:
Yousuf Butt: Standing well over 6 feet, the custodian will be very influential in how Pakistan fares against their opponents. Plying his trade in Denmark for Glostrup FK, Yousuf brings his international experience into the picture.
Zesh Rehman: The tall, lanky defender has played in England (Fulham FC), Thailand (Muangthong United F.C.) and currently in Hong Kong (Kitchee FC). His impact at the back has been vital for the Pakistani team and will be one to watch out for all the strikers.
Ranked 158 in the world, The Bengal Tigers are all set to clinch their second title since 2003. The Bangladesh fans believe that it is time for the national team to stand up and be counted in the Asian football scene. Here is the Bangladeshi squad for the tournament:
Goalkeepers: Biplob Bhattacharjee, Mamun Khan, Shahidul Alam Sohel
Defenders: Ariful Islam, Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, Ashraf Mahmud Linkon, Rezaul Karim Reza, Wali Faisal, Atiqur Rahman Meshu, Raihan Hasan
Midfielders: Mamunul Islam, Jamal Bhuyan, Omar Faruque Babu, Mithun Chowdhury, Mobarak Hossain Bhuiyan, Zahid Hossain, Sohel Rana, Monaem Khan Raju
Forwards: Zahid Hasan Ameli, Shakhawat Hossain Rony, Toklis Ahmed, Wahed Ahmed.
The team had a preparatory camp in Thailand under the watchful eyes of the dutch coach Lodewijk de Kruif. The team lost to club Osotspa Saraburi, but managed to overcome the Thai U-19 team during practice matches during the course of their stay.
Players to Watch out for:
Mamunul Islam: The 24 yr captain, who is part of current Bangladeshi champions Sheikh Russel, is more than inspirational to the team. He is currently jostling against injury, but his box-to-box work rate is something his team could definitely live with.
The hosts, ranked 170 in the world, are grouped alongside India, Nepal and Bangladesh for their group matches. Mentored by Jack Stefanowski, the Gorkhalis will be planning to clinch their maiden title at home. Here is the Nepali squad for the tenth edition of the SAFF Cup:
Goalkeepers: Kiran Chemjong, Ritesh Thapa, Bishal Shrestha,
Defenders: Sagar thapa, Sandip Rai, Rohit Chand, Biraj Maharjan, Rabin Shrestha, Sabindra Shrestha, Bijaya Dhimal, Ananta Tamang
Midfielders: Jagjeet Shrestha, Raju Tamang, Bholanath Silwal, Bijaya Gurung, Bikram Lama, Nirajan Khadka, Prakash Budhathoki, Tanka Basnet, Tek Bahadur Budhathoki,
Forwards: Jumanu Rai, Bharat Khawas, Santosh Sahukhala, Anil Gurung, Bimal Gharti Magar.
Players to Watch Out for:
Rohit Chand: The only player in the squad who plies his trade outside Nepal, 21 yr old Rohit Chand has been capped 27 times for his national side and has even had a stint with HAL SC, Bangalore, before he moved to Indonesia. (Persija Jakarta). His presence at the centre of defence would be very pivotal in judging how far the hosts go in this tournament.
The highest ranked team in the tournament and defending runner’s up, many believe that the stage is set for the Lions of Khorasan. Head Coach Md. Kargar is pretty upbeat about his sides’ chances at in Nepal but insists that every match is important. Ranked 21 in AFC rankings, here is the Afghani squad which would be seen competing in group B alongside Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan.
Goalkeepers: Hamidullah Yosufzai, Mansur Faqiryar
Defenders:Ali Ahmad Yarzada, Muqadar Qazizadah, Zohib Islam Amiri, Mujtaba Faiz, Mustafa Hadid, Farzad Attayee, Zainuddin Sharifi, Faisal Sakhizada
Midfielders: Amruddin Sharifi , Yusef Mashriqi, Arash Hatifi, Mustafa Azadzoi, Marouf Mohammadi, Rafi Barekzai, Ata Yamirali, Waheed Nadim
Forwards: Balal Arezou, Sandjar Ahmadi, Hashmat Barekzai, Hameed Karimi
Players to Watch Out for:
Balal Arezou: The Indian contingent would be familiar to the former Churchill Brothers striker who won the recently concluded I-League with the Goan outfit. The striker has scored nine goals from his ten caps for the national side. Currently plying his trade in Norway for a second division club Asker, he would be the one to mark in all the defensive strategies of Afghan opponents.
The islanders, ranked 170 in the world, come into the tournament as underdogs. Sri Lanka has participated in all the editions of the SAFF Cup since its inception in 1993. Nicknamed as the Brave Reds among their faithful, Sri Lanka will hope to pop upsets in Group B under the guidance of Claudio Roberto. Here is the Sri Lankan Squad for the tournament:
Goalkeepers: Dasun Paranavithane, Sampath Bandara, Sujan Perera.
Defenders: Sanka Danushka, Suranda Bandara (Captain), Peter Charles, Amith Kumara, Mohamed Sameer, A. Bandara Warakagoda, Eranga Prasad, Lahiru Tharaka.
Midfielders: Chathura Gunaratne (vice-captain), Raumy Mohideen, T. R. T. Rizni, H.D.M. De Silva, M. Sanoj Sameera, L.C. Sajith Kumara, Mohamed Fazal, Nipuna Bandara.
Forwards: M. N. M. Nafeer, Chathuranga Sanjeewa, M. Issadeen, R. D. Sudarshana Gunasinghe, M. N. M. Imran.
Players to Watch Out for:
Chathura Gunaratne: The most experienced player in the squad, Gunaratne has a massive task of holding things together from the middle of the park. He is known to thread moves and he is to bring his ‘A’ game on the pitch, if the islanders are to entertain any thoughts of hoarding points in Nepal.
The Red Snappers, tipped as one of the favorites to clinch the tournament, are ranked 153 in the FIFA rankings. Under the mentorship of Istvan Urbanyi, the team is hopeful of adding a second title to their kitty, after the south East Asian side clinched their maiden title in Sri Lanka. Here is the Maldivian squad for the tournament as they gear up for their group matches.
Goalkeepers: Mohamed Imran, Imran Mohamed, Mohamed Faisal, Ibrahim Arif
Defenders: Ahmed Abdulla, Mohamed Shifan, Rilwan Waheed, Akram Ghanee, Shafiu Ahmed, Mohamed Rasheed, Ahmed Zaadh
Midfielders: Mohamed Umair, Ali Umar, Ahmed Niyaz, Moosa Yameen, Ahmed Rasheed, Mohamed Niyaz, Ismail Easa, Mohamed Arif, Ahmed Imaaz
Forwards: Ali Ashfaq (Captain), Ashadullah Abdulla, Hassan Adhuham, Ali Fashir, Ahmed Nashid
Players to Watch Out for:
Ali Ashfaq: Without a shadow of a doubt, the player for everyone to watch out in a Red Snapper jersey would be Ali Ashfaq, donning his famous number 7. Ali Ashfaq has been spearheading the Maldives football team for quite a while now and has been largely successful in hitting the back of the net (26 times in 39 matches). Playing for New Radiant club in his home country, the 27 yr old lad has been on fire having won their maiden Charity shield.
The Bhutan Eleven are the lowest ranked team in the tournament with a number of 207 in front of their name in the FIFA rankings. Placed in group B alongside Maldives and Afghanistan, it will be a bumpy ride for the Kazunori Ohara mentored side. The landlocked side will hope to better their performance from the last SAFF Cup where the team failed to qualify from the group stages. Here is the Bhutanese squad for the tournament-
Goalkeepers: Leki, Hem Lal, Migma Tshering.
Defenders: Pema Rinchen, Dawa Gyeltshen, Kinley Tenzing, Nim Sangay, Monach Gurung, Karan gurung, Pema.
Midfielders: Passang Tshering, Tshering Dorji, Thinley Dorji, Biran, Chencho, Ratu, Upay, Sonam Yeozer.
Forwards: Wangdi, Yeshey Dorji, Chencho Gyeltshen, Sonam Tenzin.
Player to Watch Out For:
Passang Tshering : Leading the attack for Bhutan, Passang will be hoping to garner goals from any available opportunities during the game. His quick and agile moves, coupled with good sync up with the midfield could come up with cheerful highlights for the Bhutanese faithful.