The reigning champions and tournament favorites are the strongest team in the region and it is expected that nothing less than a win will suffice for them.
Following their appearance in the 2011 Asian Cup, India were expected to take several strides forward in their bid for glory. However, with the departure of Bob Houghton that has clearly not been the case.
The talismanic Englishman left and Savio Madeira was placed in-charge of the side that ultimately triumphed in the 2011 edition of the SAFF Championship.
Although their aims are clearly now scaled at the Asian level, new boss Wim Koevermans was unable to secure qualification to the AFC Challenge Cup earlier this year and it has piled unneeded pressure on the Dutchman as India kick-off their first game against the Pak Shaheens on the 1st of September.
India played a friendly against Tajikistan and emphatically lost 3-0 as the hosts capitalized on their own territory. The squad trained on the artificial turf of the Bangalore Football Stadium and on the last day of the camp, played a practise game against new I-League side Bengaluru FC which ended in a 1-1 draw.
With limited preparations, coach Wim Koevermans will be taking a big risk with his troops, something that is exacerbated by the fact that five players have not even taken part in proper pre-season training.
Goalkeepers: Subrata Pal, Karanjit Singh, Sandip Nandy
Defenders: Gouramangi Singh, Nirmal Chettri, Syed Rahim Nabi, Raju Gaikwad, Arnab Mondal, Nallappan Mohanraj, Sandesh Jhingan
Midfielders: Lenny Rodrigues, Mehtab Hossain, Arata Izumi, Francis Fernandes, Alwyn George, Jewel Raja
Strikers: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sunil Chhetri ©, Robin Singh, Dawson Fernandes
Goalkeeper: Subrata Pal
The shot-stopper may have seen his club form drop in recent times, however his abilities remain undoubted and he should retain his spot in goal, although he faces tough competition from Karanjit and Sandip.
Defender: Gouramangi Singh
The experienced centre-back has been integral to India’s success in the past and this time it’s no different, although he struggled domestically last season. However, his vital exposure will help the young Blue Tigers perform and coach Wim Koevermans will definitely look to give him a start.
Midfielder: Mehtab Hossain
Despite being courted by clubs in Spain, Hossain remained committed to the National Team and has proven his abilities over the last couple of years. While Sunil Chettri is India’s danger man, Hossain is the fulcrum of the side and will need to be at his best if India are to retain the title.
Striker: Sunil Chhetri
Arguably the best forward in the South Asian range and just two goals shy of being the SAFF Championship’s top scorer, Chhetri has European pedigree and consistent success with India, something which he eagerly wants to repeat in Kathmandu.
Chances of winning SAFF Championship 2013: 75%