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All SAFF Championship title wins for India

India are the record holder of the SAFF Championship by lifting the title nine times. Check out the All SAFF Championship title wins for India.

Last updated: 05.07.2023
All SAFF Championship title wins for India

India beat Kuwait in the 2023 SAFF Championship final by 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout after the scores were tied 1-1 at the end of extra time. The Blue Tigers fell behind for the first time in 10 matches and conceded a goal from open play when Shabaib Al-Khaldi gave the visitors the lead in the 13th minute. India were not rocked by the circumstances and continued to push for the equalizer which they got through AIFF Men’s Player of the Year, Lallianzuala Chhangte. The Mizo winger slot the ball into an empty net after Sahal Samad, put through by captain Sunil Chhetri, lend it to him.   

The game looked even at times with India just edging Kuwait in possession and shots on target. The two sides were not separated for 120 minutes moving to the dreaded penalties. Everyone except Udanta Singh converted from the spot for India. Abdullah hit the crossbar for Kuwait while captain Haijah's penalty was saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to spark wild celebrations at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. India lifted the silverware for a record-extending nine times in the 12th final of the competition, the first edition being in a round-robin format. Chhetri received the Golden Boot for scoring five goals and also the Golden Ball for being the best player in the tournament.     

This was also India’s ninth final in a row since they last managed to reach it in 2003. Also, Igor Stimac’s side won a fourth SAFF Championship on home soil. This victory tasted even sweeter as the challenge from two invited West Asian countries, Kuwait in the final and Lebanon in the semifinals, was overcome. First time India have done so. Undoubtedly, The Blue Tigers have been undisputed kings of South Asia.       

Here are all the SAFF Championship title wins for India in history: 

Inaugural Champions - 1993

The maiden SAFF Championship in 1993 was held in Pakistan and as the story goes, India lift the title in enemy territory. The competition was played in a round-robin format for the only time back then with the group leaders declared as winners. India finished first after staying unbeaten with two wins over Sri Lanka and Nepal and the sole 1-1 draw against the hosts in the final group match. Legendary forward IM Vijayan won the golden boot with three goals for the inaugural winners.          

India 5-1 Maldives - 1997

India failed to clinch back-to-back title victories as they lost the 1995 edition to hosts Sri Lanka 1-0 in the sudden death extra time of the tournament’s first-ever final. However, the Blue Tigers did not miss the chance when they move into another final two years later, thrashing Maldives 5-1. Vijayan was once again in the thick of the action scoring twice with Jo Paul Ancheri and Bhaichung Bhutia scoring the others. The Kerala-born striker reigned again as the top-scorer with six goals. India topped their group by beating Bangladesh and drawing with Maldives before winning against Pakistan in the semi-finals. Arjuna awardee Syed Nayeemuddin was the manager for the side.     

India 2-0 Bangladesh - 1999

With a 2-0 victory over Bangladesh in the 1999 final, India finally became consecutive winners of the SAFF Championship. They also became the first and only side till now to have retained the title. The tournament was hosted by India as well. All games were played in the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. Bruno Coutinho and Bhaichung scored in either half in the showpiece for the trophy. The pair was instrumental throughout the tournament with the Blue Tigers coming second in the group to leaders Bangladesh and Pakistan. Both also found the net in the semifinal tie against Maldives with Coutinho netting an 84th-minute winner for the 2-1 win.        

India 2-0 Bangladesh - 2005

The same tie was played in the SAFF Championship final six years later resulting in the same outcome. With the same scoreline as well. Bangladesh were the holders having beaten Maldives in the previous edition but India rekindled their dominance. Bhaichung was yet again on the scoresheet in the final with Mehrajuddin Wadoo scoring the opener. India again came second to the finalists in the group stages with the same points and separated only by goal difference. Coincidentally, Maldives were their opponents in the semifinals as well whom they beat 1-0.

India 0-0 Maldives (a.e.t; 3-1 on penalties) - 2009

The Blue Tigers reached another final in 2008 although quite surprisingly lost to Maldives. In the next edition held in the year after, the U23 side took revenge for the loss defeating the Red Snappers 3-1 on penalties. The score was tied 0-0 after extra time. The team containing Jeje Lalphekhlua in the ranks did lose to Maldives in the group stages so it was a triumph on all sides. The best player award went to goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya whose heroics in the shootout was the tip of an excellent showing in the entire tournament.      


India 4-0 Afghanistan - 2011

The SAFF Championship returned to India in 2011 and the hosts had little trouble to defend their title. India blazed past Afghanistan 4-0 with all of the goals coming in the final 20 minutes of the match. Sunil Chhetri scored from the spot to begin the scoring before Clifford Miranda, Lalphekhlua and one of the stars of the last edition, Sushil Kumar Singh joined the party. The talismanic forward also grabbed the two individual awards, Golden Boot with a whooping seven goals and Golden Ball, back then. The Blue Tigers conceded just twice in the entire tournament while scoring 16 at the same time. Four games ended in three or more goals except for the 1-1 draw against Afghanistan themselves in the group opener. India did not rank up such figures again in the competition.                         


India 2-1 Afghanistan (a.e.t) - 2015

For the third consecutive final India fought Afghanistan in the SAFF Championship, winning 2-1 after extra time in 2015. The team led by Stephen Constantine took revenge for the last tournament’s final loss to the same opponents in Nepal. Hosts this time, India had to battle hard as they went behind through a Zubayr Amiri’s strike against the run of play in the 70th minute. Two minutes later, Lalphekhlua equalized getting on the end of a flick from Chhetri, the tournament’s best again, who then scored the winner in extra time taking the favor back from his fellow forward. India were a stable unit throughout the tournament and even won a 3-2 thriller with their semi-final mates, or foe, Maldives to get to this stage.  

India 3-0 Nepal - 2021

India marched on to the 2023 title triumph already the holders of the previous one in 2021. They beat Nepal in the delayed competition due to the pandemic having lost to Maldives in the final again two years earlier. After the first half ended 0-0, the Blue Tigers came alive after the break with Chhetri, Suresh Wangjam and Sahal producing the goods in the 3-0 win. Igor Stimac also won the first trophy of his tenure as the national team manager. The start of the tournament though was not ideal drawing with Bangladesh and then 0-0 with 207th-ranked Sri Lanka, before the suspension, in the group stages. Then a hard-fought 1-0 against the eventual finalists and a 3-1 victory over the Maldives in the semis kicked on the tournament.

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