The two teams will look to start their campaign in SAFF Championship on a winning note in order to not complicate their chances of progression into the next round…
The second match of Group ‘B’ fixture pits the two island nations against each other.
Maldives, ranked 153 in the world, are one of the contenders for the SAFF Championship title. They are the last team to have won the competition at the expense of holders India back in 2008.
All isn’t well in the Maldives camp after manager Ibrahim Amir quit his post days before the tournament kicks-off in the wake of a bust-up between him and a few players.
Six teams have changed their coaches since the last edition of the SAFF Championships with only Afghanistan’s Yousef Kargar and Maldives’ Istvan Urbanyi managing to retain their jobs.
The Hungarian coach, in his second spell with Maldives, backed his side to put in a top performance at the tournament, which he believes they can win.
“The expectation is always highest, especially from the fans. We have a good team, but nobody can say that they have the strongest team. Small details will make a difference. We are ready to fight. Our target is to take back the trophy to make fans happy,” he said.
They have been criticized in the past for being overly dependent on their skipper Ali Ashfaq. However if results in their three practice games prior to the tournament are to go by, it does seem that they finally seem to have a more competent attack than in the previous editions of SAFF.
They won against Dhiraagu Divehi League’s Foreign XI 8-7 on penalties and thereafter embarked on a tour to Thailand where they downed Osotspa Saraburi 3-2 before going down with the same scoreline to Thailand U-19 side.
Sri Lanka, ranked 170 in the world along with hosts Nepal, travelled to Thailand to prepare for the SAFF Championship. They defeated Thailand’s Division 2 champions Customs United SC and 2-0 with Chathura Gunarathna and Mohamed Sameer on the scoresheet. They lost their second game to a team from Hong Kong 5-1 and followed it up with a 2-1 victory over Thailand U21 side with goals from Mohamed Issadeen and Mohamed Nafeer.
In their final game, they downed Thailand Army side 3-0 with Mohamed Issadeen with D.M. Silva and Mohamed Fazal scoring the goals.
Following their disappointing exit from the group stages in the last edition of SAFFChampionship, Sri Lanka would be keen to erase those memories by putting in a strong performance in the opening match against Maldives.
The last time when the two sides met, Maldives thrashed Sri Lanka 5-1 to book a berth in the finals of the 2009 SAFF Championship. Ibrahim Fazeel and Ali Ashfaq starred in the triumph as they dispatched the Lankans with ease.
In the 17 matches between the two sides, Maldives have won 6, Sri Lanka have registered 3 wins, with 8 draws. It must be noted that Sri Lanka haven’t beaten Maldives since their 1-0 victory in April, 2002.
Sri Lanka coach Claudio Roberto expressed confidence in his side and stated that his team are aware of the strengths and weaknesses in the Maldives squad.
“When we were in Thailand, Maldives were also there. We have got an idea of Maldives, and we are ready to face them.”
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