MALDIVES



Winners in 2008, Maldives return to the country where they lost two SAFF Suzuki Cup finals. In 2003, the Red Snappers failed on penalties in the final against host Bangladesh while six years later it was India who emerged the victor on spot-kicks.

Maldives, though, had beaten the men in blue in the final a year ago when it jointly hosted the tournament with Sri Lanka. The 2008 SAFF Suzuki Cup is the only instance of the Maldivians playing at home in the competition's history. Maldives is always a force to reckon with at the SAFF Suzuki Cup as it has played three finals and always progressed past the group stage since making its debut in 1997.

Clubbed in the same pool as fellow SAFF member Bhutan in the recently concluded AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, Maldives managed to win both matches against the Bhutanese – the second of those games culminating in a 7-0 win at home. Ranked 147 in the FIFA rankings, though, the Petar Segrt-managed team failed to pick up points from any of the other matches in the group.

Maldives will be captained by striker Ali Ashfaq, who boasts of 52 goals in 77 internationals. He is also the all-time top scorer in the SAFF Suzuki Cup with 20 goals. Beyond Ashfaq, the side will have plenty of experience to call upon in Bangladesh. Midfielders Mohammed Umair, Ashad Ali, and Ali Fasir have represented their country for a number of years now while the defence will be manned by Akram Abdul Ghanee and Shafiu Ahmed. The entire Maldives squad plies its trade in its own country.

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