Koji concerned about team’s poor defense

Kathmandu, June 10

Poor defense and lack of coordination among the players are the major concerns of the national football team head coach Gyotoku Kijo when his men face Yemen in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Group F match at the APF grounds on Tuesday.

Nepal faced a 2-0 defeat at the hands of India in an international friendly match in Mumbai on June 6 and Koji found defense line to blame for the loss. “There has been an improvement in the defense line than last week and we still have to work hard to deal with the lapses,” said Koji during the national team training at the Dasharath Stadium today.

“We could not put up a good show against India due to humid conditions in Mumbai but we got to learn a lot of things from the friendly match,” said Koji. Nepal missed the services Rabin Shrestha, regarded as the backbone of Nepali defense, due to health issues and was replaced by debutant Bimal Basnet, and skipper Biraj Maharjan was expelled in the second half. Shrestha is in doubt for the match against Yemen.

Although Nepal will be playing a key match of the group against Yemen, coach Koji was not aware about the opponents. “Yemen are one of the strong teams in the group but I am not much aware about them,” he added. Skipper Maharjan said the lack of coordination among the players also caused problems in the team. “There was no proper coordination among the players as we had included new faces in the team. And we are still working to settle down the issue as we have not finalised the squad for the match against Yemen,” said Maharjan.

Nepal are playing their first home match of the Qualifiers. They had faced a 4-1 defeat against the Philippines in March. “Playing at the home grounds is always an advantage for the team but we will be under pressure to win the match as we have to collect points to keep our hopes alive for the top two places in the group,” said Maharjan. “But playing at the APF grounds will not be similar to that of Dasharath Stadium,” he added.

A total of 24 teams, who have been divided into six groups, are vying for 12 slots for the AFC Asian Cup finals to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in 2019. Nepal, who are in Group F along with Philippines, Yemen and Tajikistan, are yet to open their accounts, while Yemen and Philippines have three points each. Yemen had defeated Tajikistan 2-1.