Summer in the northern hemisphere is winding down and that usually means a combination of things: club football is staring back up and international football is winding down. The headlines are dominated by transfer rumors and Manchester City shortcomings. Will Gareth Bale go to Real Madrid? Will Wayne Rooney go to Chelsea? What about Suarez? We Global certainly does not care. There are way, way too many outlets that cover these topics. Take a gander at our twitter feed and it’s populated with the same topics. What you won’t see is people talking about the upcoming SAFF Championships being held in Nepal.
Sure it’s a tournament of footballing minnows, but as We Global has continuously emphasized this summer, there is no such thing as a meaningless match. Confederations often base continental championship and World Cup qualifying groups on FIFA rankings. This tournament, if nothing else, will serve as an great chance for nations to increase their FIFA point totals and perhaps better their position in upcoming qualifying campaigns. If I’m the head of a participating federation, I would take this tournament very seriously.
As an example, the 2014 AFC World Cup qualifying began with the bottom 16 teams of the confederation. If they were to start a campaign right now, 4 SAFF teams would be drawn into the first round. They would get two matches and could potentially be eliminated 3 years before the World Cup finals. Pakistan would currently be drawn into the first round, but only need 20 more FIFA points to jump out of the bottom 16 AFC teams. Every match counts when trying to improve your future outlook.
Similar to the COSAFA championship that was held in Zambia a month ago, the SAFF championship is a tournament of nations that comprise a subconfederation. The AFC is made up of 4 regional subconfederations.
AFF – ASEAN Football Federation
EAFF – East Asian Football Federation
SAFF – South Asian Football Federation
WAFF – West Asian Football Federation
The South Asian Football Federation was formed back in 1997 and has 8 member associations
They are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The average WGF ranking for these nations is 173.8, with Afghanistan topping the group at 129.
There are two groups of 4, with the top 2 in each group advancing to the knockout round. Let’s take a look at the Group A and see who are the favorites.
Group A is the more competitive group of the two. According to xCro, Bangladesh and Pakistan are slight favorites to advance, but no team has a clear-cut advantage. India are always dangerous, but constantly underachieve for being a nation of 1 billion people. Lastly, hosts Nepal are more than capable of making a deep run in this tournament with the tremendous support they always receive at Dasarath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu. If the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers held there earlier this year are any indication, that place will be rocking when Gorkhali take the pitch.
Group B is much more mismatched than group A. There are two clear cut favorites in Afghanistan and Maldives. Afghanistan are coming off a very impressive 3-0 thrashing of Pakistan in their first home match in 10 years! Maldives are always a threat but typically do not travel very well. Luckily for them, they get two games against (probably) the worst teams in the AFC.
The key matchup here is obviously Afghanistan v Maldives. Naturally, it isn’t until the 3rd and final matchday and will likely determine who wins the group. We’ll give Afghanistan the nod here.
We’ve also created an 8 team super-group in our xCro predictor to see who would come out on top. Afghanistan have been given a surprising 51% chance of making the final. Basically you can count out Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Nepal and India have been given a tough draw, but can’t be removed from consideration by any stretch of the imagination.
|Team||To Make Final||To Win||Odds|
This tournament is as wide open as any competition you’ll see across the globe. We’ll be giving you updates as the games unfold. Be sure to download our match tracker so you can follow in the comfort of your home!
As always, thanks for following as we try our very best to bring you coverage of international football from every corner of the globe.