Lanka faces Nepal challenge in semis | Daily News

Lanka faces Nepal challenge in semis

Sri Lanka’s junior soccerites will look to create a piece of history when they take on Nepal in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Boys’ Under-17 Tournament semi-final encounter under lights at the Race course Grounds in Colombo today.

Sri Lanka have never gone beyond the second-round stage of this tournament, which commenced in August 2011, as an Under-16 competition with the inaugural edition held in Nepal where Pakistan defeated arch-rivals India 2-1 in the final.

However, keeping in mind that the AFC Under-16 Championship is held every following year, the format was changed to an Under-15 event in 2017 where India emerged champions overcoming the hosts Nepal 2-1 in the final. After a series of discussions, the SAFF have now finally decided to conduct this tournament as an Under-17 event from 2022 onwards with the participation of six South Asian countries.

Pakistan is the only team that have missed out this year’s tournament as they were suspended by the FIFA and eventually withdrew the ban, but it turned out to be too late for them to prepare for the Colombo event.

Sri Lanka of course, qualified to play in the semi-final for the first time after they emerged Group ‘A’ runners up with three points, behind the table leaders Bangladesh, who finished with the maximum of six points.

Sri Lanka suffered a demoralising 1-5 defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in their opening match but secured their place in the last four of the competition with an exciting 1-0 victory against the Maldives.

Meanwhile, Nepal will start the game as favourites following their stunning 3-1 victory against the defending champions India in the last Group ‘B’ encounter on Friday.

As a result, Nepal went on to top the points table from Group ‘B’ with six points while pushing the three-time champions India to second place with three points followed by the third team Bhutan.

Even then, Nepal are still searching for their maiden title after having emerged runners-up on three previous occasions in 2013, 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Meanwhile, the favourites India will face another tough challenge when they confront the unbeaten Bangladesh outfit in the first semi-final encounter. Bangladesh, the former two-time champions are in tremendous form having accumulated the most number of goals from their two outings so far.

They started their campaign with a 5-1 victory against the hosts Sri Lanka and then followed up with another 5-0 drubbing of the Maldives to top the Group ‘A’ points table. In contrast, India’s solitary win was against Bhutan in the curtain raiser match of the tournament where they cruised to a convincing 3-0 victory. 

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