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Bhutan take on Maldives in SAFF Championship

Thinley Namgay

Bhutan’s national men’s football team (Dragon Boys) will face the Maldives on June 22 in the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, India.

It will be the second international tournament for the Dragon Boys after a hiatus of three years without a single match on the international stage. 

The Dragon Boys are in Kolkata for acclimatisation and friendly games. The team will move to Bengaluru on June 19. 

The boys have been undergoing rigorous training in the capital since the completion of the Tri-Nation Cup in Nepal in March.

Players and officials said the SAFF championship has always been challenging, and the team will try its best. They also said the Tri-Nation Cup in Nepal helped them gain exposure.

Eight countries are participating: Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Nepal, the Maldives, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Bhutan has a comparatively young squad this time.

Bhutan is placed in Group B against the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Lebanon. Bhutan faced the Maldives and Bangladesh in several regional tournaments but not against Lebanon. Lebanon remains a strong team in Group B.

India, Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan are in Group A.

Among the eight teams, India and Lebanon are currently playing in the Intercontinental Cup, which will end on June 18.

India has dominated the championship so far with a record eight titles. However, the inclusion of Kuwait and Lebanon for the first time in the SAFF Championship is expected to make the tournament competitive.

Bhutan’s most commendable performance in the SAFF Championship was in 2008 when they reached the semifinals but narrowly lost 2-1 to India in a highly contested match in the Maldives.

The tournament will be held between June 21 and July 4. In the opening games, India will face Pakistan, and Kuwait will play against Nepal.