AFC Challenge Cup squad announced

Lalitpur, July 17:

Strikers Santosh Sahukhala and Yugal Kishor Rai were today recalled for the national team when All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) announced the 25-member preliminary squad for the final round of the AFC Challenge Cup slated to begin in Hyderabad from July 30.

Both Sahukhala and Rai were overlooked in the first round of the AFC Challenge Cup held in Cambodia and SAFF Championship held in Maldives. Coach Birat Krishna Shrestha said the team is the blend of youth and experience.

ANFA retained all the 18 members that represented Nepal in the qualifying round in Cambodia. Midfielder Pradeep Maharjan was out injured before the tournament while Bharat Khawas had picked up jaundice. Parbat Pandey toured Cambodia but was included only for SAFF Championship in Maldives.

Nepal are pitted in a tough group against DPR Korea, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. They will open their campaign against Myanmar on July 31 before taking on DPR Korea on August 2 and Sri Lanka two days later. “We will play in a positive frame of mind,” said coach Shrestha, adding that his team would be the underdogs. He also added that he would give more preference to the Sri Lanka match.

“Determination, aggression, leadership were some of the attributes we took into consideration

while selecting the players,” coach Shrestha said. Commenting on Sahukhala’s recall, assistant coach Bal Gopal Shrestha said he was selected due to his improved performance in recent times.

The team is scheduled to leave for Kolkata on July 21 for the final preparation. They will play one warm-up match each against East Bengal (July 22) and Chirag Club (July 26). The final 23-member will be picked up after the two warm-up matches, said coach Birat Krishna Shrestha.

Team: Ritesh Thapa, Bikash Malla, Samit Raj Bhandari, Rakesh Shrestha (cap), Anjan KC, Lok Bandhu Gurung, Biraj Maharjan, Sagar Thapa, Suman Subedi, Chun Bahadur Thapa, Bikash Singh Chhetry, Robin Shrestha, Bijay Gurung, Vishan Gauchan, Nirajan Khadka, Bhola Silwal, Ananta Thapa, Parbat Pandey, Ranjit Shrestha, Raju Tamang, Sandeep Rai, Jumanu Rai, Santosh Sahukhala, Yugal Kishor Rai, Nirajan Rayamajhi