KATHMANDU: Nepal Police Club (NPC) have set eyes on clinching the AFC President’s Cup in their fifth attempt despite coach Birat Krishna Shrestha himself accepting of taking an injury-ravaged team to Cambodia for the Group ‘B’ qualifying campaign on Wednesday.
After two successive poor performances at the home soil in 2009 and 2011, the recently-concluded British Gurkha Cup champions NPC are travelling to Phnom Penh with a side weakened by multiple injuries.
The injury to their key players in skipper and star forward Jumanu Rai (tibial collateral ligament), midfielder Ramesh Katuwal (right ankle), defender duo of Suraj BK (thigh muscle cramp) and Dipendra Poudel (ankle) has been a headache for the National and ‘A’ Division League champions.
Moreover, the domestic powerhouse got a major blow when they failed to include Bharat Khawas in their team after the star striker cum midfielder opted out of team following his failed bid to earn a rank of Assistant Sub Inspector.
“As we are without two regular central forwards, we have to switch midfielders to take their place,” said the NPC coach. “It also means that we have to look for new midfielders,” said Shrestha after wrapping up the preparation a day prior to their travel to Cambodia. Shrestha also said his side will sorely miss the services of Bharat.
NPC’s performance in the prestigious AFC tournament has been on the decline since their first participation in 2007 where they made it to the final but lost 2-1 against Dordoi-Dynamo of Kyrgyzstan. They made it to the last four in 2008 but failed to even qualify for the finals in 2009 and 2011, both on home soil. Moreover, they ended the qualifying campaign even without scoring a goal last year on home soil.
“We are under pressure for a better result this time around,”said the NPC coach adding that the poor results in the past, especially on home soil, do not correspond to his team’s performance.
Shrestha was also encouraged by the fact that his team has been drawn relatively in easier group this time around. “Except for Dordoi-Dynamo, we are capable of beating any other opponents,” said the coach. “We start with a match against group favourite Dordoi, whom we have never beaten in our previous three encounters. So either win or a draw against them can help our cause,” said the 51-year old Shrestha, who has been looking after the departmental side since May, 2006.
Shrestha said his side was hammered 3-0 by Dordoi in 2007 as they knew very little about their opponents then. But his players’ mistakes were to blame for the next two defeats against the 2007 champions. Shrestha said his side’s mental strength, technical discipline, determination, fighting spirit and patience, which has made NPC a dominant force in domestic football, would come in handy in their qualification campaign.
Veteran midfielder Parbat Pandey too agreed with the coach and termed his side as the weakest ever. “Compared to our previous President’s Cup squads, this one is far weaker. But we are not going to surrender easily and would give our best to earn qualification,” said Pandey. Top two teams from each of the three groups will qualify for the finals to be played on September 24-30 at a venue yet to be declared.
SQUAD: Goalkeepers: Ritesh Thapa, Bishal Shrestha; Defenders: Rakesh Shrestha, Suman Subedi, Suraj BK, Dipendra Poudel, Rabin Shrestha, Roshan Karki, Rupesh Chaudhary; Midfielders: Yogesh Shrestha, Bhola Silwal, Parbat Pandey, Ramesh Katuwal, Dilip Rai, Ramesh Rai, Pankaj Shahi; Forwards: Jumanu Rai, Bharat Shah.
NPC’S GROUP B FIXTURES
• May 5: vs Dordoi-Dynamo, Kyrgyzstan
• May 7: vs Phnom Penh Crown FC, Cambodia
• May 9: vs Yeedzin FC, Bhutan
NPC in President’s Cup
• Lost 2-1 against
Dordoi-Dynamo in final
• Won 2-1 against Regar-Tadaz of Tajikistan in semi-finals
• Drew 0-0 against Tatung Club of Chinese Taipei
• Lost 3-0 against
• Won 6-4 against Khemara of Cambodia
• Lost 3-1 against
Dordoi-Dynamo in semi-finals
• Won 4-0 against Abahani
Limited of Bangladesh
• Drew 1-1 against WAPDA of Pakistan
• Drew 2-2 against
• Lost 3-2 against Taiwan
• Drew 0-0 against WAPDA
• Drew 2-2 against
• Lost 2-0 against WAPDA
• Lost 2-0 against Balkan FC of Turkmenistan
• Lost 1-0 against Taiwan