Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Arch-rivals Pakistan and India were on Tuesday clubbed in the same group when the SAFF Cup 2013 draws were unveiled in Kathmandu.
Hosts Nepal and former champions Bangladesh are the other teams in their Group A.
Group B has Afghanistan, former champions Maldives, Sri Lanka and minnows Bhutan.
The event will be held at the Dashrath Stadium in Nepal’s capital from September 1 to 11.
Pakistan will face India in their opener on September 1 at 2:45 pm PST, while Nepal will meet Bangladesh in the second game of the day at 5:45 pm PST.
India, the six-time champions, will defend their title. India’s crowns came in 1993, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011.
Sri Lanka won it in 1995, Bangladesh in 2003 and Maldives in 2008.
In 1997 Pakistan picked bronze after beating Sri Lanka in the play-off for the third place. In the 2005 edition in Karachi Pakistan lost to Bangladesh 0-1 in the semi-final.
Although Pakistan have been placed in a strong pool, it did not disturb the Greenshirts’ coach Zavisa Milosavljevic. “Yes, the group is tough but we are also a tough side,” Zavisa told ‘The News’ from Lahore.
“All the boys are motivated and I really expect that we will qualify for the final,” said the coach, who returned from his homeland Serbia on Monday after undergoing the pro-license course.
Ahead of the SAFF Cup Pakistan will play two international friendiles against Bangladesh in Dhaka on August 13 and 16 and a game against Afghanistan on August 20 in Kabul. Zavisa said that the matches against the South Asian countries would help him form a good combination for the Nepal assignment. “You know, these matches will not affect our SAFF Cup goal but will rather help the players get ample exposure and will also help me to create the best line-up,” said Zavisa.
Pakistan team camp for the tours of Bangladesh and Afghanistan will start from Wednesday (today) in Lahore. “Yes, the camp will start from tomorrow evening,” Zavisa said.
“We have invited 19 local and six foreign-based players for the camp and it is not yet final when the foreign-based Pakistani players will join us and you will know it tomorrow,” said Zavisa.
Denmark-based Hasan Bashir, Mohammad Ali, Yaqoob Butt, Yousuf Butt and England-based Adnan Ahmed and Shabbir Khan may boost Zavisa’s troops for the SAFF Cup.
Sources said that Zia-us-Salam and Riaz Ahmed, who were not part of the team for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, have also been recalled.
In the previous SAFF Cup under him Pakistan failed to move beyond the group stage. They held Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives to draw in all their three matches.
Schedule: September 1: India v Pakistan, Nepal v Bangladesh September 2: Afghanistan v Bhutan, Maldives v Sri Lanka
September 3: Pakistan v Nepal, Bangladesh v India
September 4: Bhutan v Maldives, Sri Lanka v Afghanistan
September 5: India v Nepal, Bangladesh v Pakistan
September 6: Afghanistan v Maldives, Sri Lanka v Bhutan
September 8: Semi-finals (Group A winners v Group B runners-up), Group B winners v Group A runners-up, September 11: Final