SAFF Cup 2015: Reigning champions Afghanistan to start title defense against Bangladesh

The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship 2015 will be played between December 23 and January 3 in India, according to a statement issued by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

The tournament will kick off on December 23 when hosts and six-time winners India will take on arch rivals Pakistan.

Defending champions Afghanistan will begin their title challenge on December 24 when they face Bangladesh in a Group B match.

A total of eight teams have been divided into two groups. The top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals.

In Group A, hosts India have Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal for company. In Group B, Afghanistan have been clubbed with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives.

Defending champions Afghanistan will begin their title challenge on December 24 when they face Bangladesh in a Group B match

India has won the championship five times while Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives have won once each. Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan have been unlucky.

Afghanistan, which famously routed India 2-0 to win the championship in Kathmandu Nepal in 2013, will be looking to retain the coveted title.

The historic victory in 2013 brought tremendous joy to the football enthusiasts in Afghanistan and turned footballers into celebrities. The skyline of Kabul city was lit up by celebratory gunfire.

As this year’s championship draws closer, football fans in Afghanistan are elated. “We are all looking forward to the championship and we hope our team will repeat the performance of 2013,” says Umaid Khan, a football fan.

The historic victory in 2013 brought tremendous joy to the football enthusiasts in Afghanistan and turned footballers into celebrities.  

“Football is a universal language and a powerful tool to espouse the cause of peace and national unity and we have seen that in the Afghan Premier League also,” he adds.

Afghanistan is currently playing the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Their second qualifying round has included two losses against Syria and Japan and one win against Cambodia.

The World Cup qualification process will decide 31 of the 32 teams that will play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which is scheduled to take place between June 14 and July 15 2018 in Russia.