Just ten days remain before the SAFF Championship 2013 kicks off in Nepal, with India hoping to grab their seventh title, and further establishing their supremacy in the region.
While the Blue Tigers have won six of the nine editions so far, this time they will be hoping to complete a hat-trick of successive victories for the first time.
The Championship though, has been one dominated by India, as except 2003, India has reached the final in each edition. Goal has a look at how India fared in each version of the tournament.
|1993 - India wins tournament
The tournament which is regarded as the inaugural addition of the SAFF Championship, was held as the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation Gold Cup, with India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and hosts Pakistan taking part. A junior team of the host nation also took part, but their results were not counted officially.
I.M Vijayan impressed for the Blue Tigers, scoring in all three games, as India finished top of the table with seven points, with two wins and a draw against the hosts.
Back then, the leader at the end of the league stage was announced as the winner, and thus India were crowned the Champions, with Sri Lanka finishing second with four points.
|1995 - India finish as Runners-up
The second edition, held as the South Asian Gold Cup, saw the number of participating nations rise to five, with Bangladesh joining the fray. Maldives were also supposed to take part, but eventually backed out of the tournament.
That meant that Sri Lanka and India were part of a group, in which both teams progressed to the semi-final, with the Islanders being adjudged as group winners via a toss, after their league encounter with the Blue Tigers ended in a draw.
In the other group, Pakistan lost out on a semi-final berth due to an inferior goal difference, after all three teams won a game each.
The hosts Lankans edged past Nepal in the semi-final by a score-line of 2-1, while India needed penalties to get the better of Bangladesh.
The final too went into extra-time, with the hosts clinching the title with the help of a 108th minute goal by Sarath Wellage.
The Blue Tigers thus failed to defend their crown, and actually reached the final without winning a single game.
|1997 - India claim their second crown
Nepal hosted the the 1997 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, which saw Maldives officially joining the fray, making it a six team competition.
The Blue Tigers were clubbed in Group B with Maldives and Bangladesh, and rode on a brace by I.M Vijayan and another strike by Bhaichung Bhutia, to blank Bangladesh 3-0, before drawing 2-2 with Maldives, to qualify for the semi-finals as group winners, being joined by Maldives from Group B.
In the last four, India met arch-rivals Pakistan, who had beaten Nepal to qualify as the second team from group A, behind Sri Lanka. I.M Vijayan yet again showed his class, as his two goals, one in each half, saw India reach the final with a 2-0 win.
The final saw a re-match between India and Maldives, and this time the Blue Tigers coasted to a win, with the final score-line reading 5-1. Vijayan came up with another brace, while Bhaichung Bhutia, Jo Paul Ancheri and Amit Das all getting on the score-sheet.
|1999 - India defend their title
The Championship reached Indian shores for the first time in 1999, with no new additions being made to the participating nations.
The hosts were clubbed with Bangladesh and Pakistan in Group A, and finished second in the group, behind Bangladesh, owing to a poor goal difference, after the two teams had played out a goalless draw between themselves.
The Blue Tigers defeated Pakistan 2-0, with Bhaichung and Syed Shabir Pasha getting the goals.
They staved off the challenge of Maldives in the last four, with goals from Bhutia and Bruno Colaco seeing them win 2-1.
The duo were on the act in the final as well, with the hosts sealing their third title with a 2-0 win over Bangladesh.
|2003 - India's worst showing ever
2003 saw the number of participating nations rise to eight, with Bhutan and Afghanistan joining the fray.
The latter was put in the same group as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and failed to score a single goal in three games.
India themselves didn’t have a great championship, and slumped to a 1-0 loss to Pakistan, before recovering to thump the Lions of Khorasan 4-0, thanks to a brace each by Ashim Biswas and Alvito D’Cunha.
A 1-1 draw against Sri Lanka saw India limp into the semi-finals, where an extra-time strike saw hosts Bangladesh reach the final at the expense of the two-time defending champions.
The home side eventually beat Maldives on penalties in the final, to lift the trophy, while India edged out Pakistan 2-1, to seal third place, with a goal each from Vijayan and Abhishek Yadav.
|2005 - India regain the title
After a forgetful outing in 2003, the Indian team reached Karachi hoping to regain their crown in Pakistan.
Put in Group B, alongwith Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the Blue Tigers finished second behind the 2003 Champions on goal difference, after playing out a 1-1 draw with Bangladesh, following a 2-1 and 3-0 win over Nepal and Bhutan respectively.
A cagey encounter against Maldives was won by a solitary goal by NS Manju, ensuring India reached the final, where they played Bangladesh, who had edged out Pakistan in the other semi-final.
The final, a repeat of the 1999 title clash, saw India register a 2-0 win, with the hero of the 1999 encounter, Bhiachung Bhutia, getting on the score-sheet yet again, alongwith Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
|2008 - Stumble at the final hurdle
Though originally scheduled for 2007, the SAFF Championship was postponed to 2008, and was held jointly by Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Co-hosts Maldives were placed alongside India, Nepal and Pakistan in Group A.
The Blue Tigers finished top of their group, winning all three games, beating Nepal 4-0, Pakistan 2-1 and Maldives by a scoreline of 1-0, in a tightly contested game, where Gouramangi Moirangthem’s goal made the difference, with the Red Snappers having to be content with a second spot.
The semi-finals saw India make heavy-weather of beating Bhutan, with Gouramangi’s intervention being required in the attacking half of the field yet again, as the centre-back’s 120th minute goal seeing India edge their neighbours by a scoreline of 2-1, with Sunil Chhetri getting the other goal for the Blue Tigers.
In a battle between the co-hosts, Maldives edged out Sri Lanka 1-0, to reach the final, which too they won by the same scoreline, as a Mukhtar Naseer’s strike saw them clinch the title.
|2009 - India U-23 side bring back the title
The Blue Tigers got to make amends for their loss in the final in 2008 just a year later, when the Championship was held in Bangladesh, after India expressed a reluctance to host the tournament.
The then four times champions decided to send a young U-23 team for the competition, and the youngsters finished second behind Maldives in Group A, with Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sushil Kumar Singh scoring for the country in identical 1-0 wins over Nepal and Afghanistan.
Maldives though edged out India in the final group encounter, winning 2-0, to seal top spot in the group.
India registered their third 1-0 win of the tournament in the semis, as a Sushil Kumar Singh goal was enough to help the Blue Tigers reach the final.
In a repeat of the 2008 title clash, Maldives and India went head-to-head for the championship, and the game eventually went to penalties, with neither side scoring in open play.
In the shoot-out, the young Blue Tigers won 3-1, with Nirmal Chettri being the only player to miss from the spot, with three players from the Red Snappers failing to find the back of the net, handing India their fifth title.
|2011 - India win their sixth crown
India hosted the 2011 edition, and were placed in Group A with Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The Afghans proved to be difficult customers for the Blue Tigers to deal with, drawing 1-1 in the opening encounter, with Sunil Chhetri’s equalizer cancelling out Balal Arezou’s 5th minute opener.
India then thumped Bhutan 5-0, before breezing past Sri Lanka 3-0, but still finished second in the group, after Afghanistan thumped Bhutan 8-1.
In the semis India faced Maldives, who had finished above Nepal in their group on goal difference as well.
However the Red Snappers failed to mount a challenge against the hosts in the last four, losing 3-1, allowing Savio Medeira’s side to reach the final, where they faced Afghanistan, who were in the title clash for the first time ever, having beaten Nepal in extra-time.
The final though, saw India run away as clear winners, scoring four goals in the second half with Afghanistan down to ten men, after a tense first 45 minutes. Sunil Chhetri got the all important opener via the penalty spot, before Clifford Miranda, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sushil Kumar Singh added to the score-line, sealing India’s sixth title.
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