India clubbed with Pakistan in SAFF Cup

New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) Six-time winners India will face Pakistan on the opening day of the 2015 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) tournament.

The ninth edition of the tournament will be held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, from December 23 to January 3.

The tournament draw, held here on Wednesday, clubbed India with Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka in Group A while Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives and Bangladesh will constitute Group B.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals to be held on December 31, followed by the final on January 3, next year.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary Kushal Das said he was hopeful that India, the most successful team in the regional tournament, will produce a creditable display.

India lost to Afghanistan in the final of the 2013 edition. The defending champions will make its final appearance in the tournament after deciding to be part of another regional football organisation — the Central Asia Football Association — from the next year.

He also hoped that the current diplomatic logjam between India and Pakistan, a major obstacle in conducting sporting and cultural ties between the two nations, will not prove to be a hindrance to host the neighbouring country.

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