The official draw for the 75th edition of the Santosh Trophy was held in New Delhi on Thursday where 10 teams who came through the qualifiers were drawn into two groups of five each for the main event which will be held in Kerala from February 20, 2022 onwards.
“I was very pleased to know that the Hero Santosh Trophy would be taking place in Kerala as it is a footballing state,” said former India defender Gouramangi Singh, who was assisting in the process.
“It is a great initiative by the AIFF and Kerala Government and I wish the players all the best,” he added.
Group A could easily be classified as a ‘Group of Death’ with the likes of West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab going head-to-head along with Meghalaya and surprise package Rajasthan.
Group B sees defending champions Services paired alongside Manipur, Karnataka, Odisha and Gujarat, the latter qualifying at the expense of powerhouses Goa.
The Platinum Jubilee edition of the Santosh Trophy will be inaugurated by the competition’s two most successful sides – West Bengal (32-time winners) and Punjab (8). Hosts Kerala open their campaign against Rajasthan who pipped Maharashtra by a point in the West Zone qualifiers.
Services begin the defence of their title against a Manipur side which knocked out Mizoram in qualifying. Karnataka, who came through with a perfect record, will be hoping to build further momentum in their opening game against Odisha.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals.
Group A: Meghalaya, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Kerala
Group B: Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Services, Manipur