Merdeka Cup: Nepal in tough pool

Kathmandu, October 14:

Nepal were drawn in the tough group at the Merdeka Cup Football Tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Nepal are pitted against hosts Malaysia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan in Pool A. Nepal, who are ranked 175th in the FIFA rankings, are only better than Afghanistan, who are at the 182nd position, in the group. Malaysia are 154th and Sierra Leone 133rd in the FIFA rating.

Myanmar (157), Vietnam (165), Mozambique (100) and Bangladesh (179) are in Group B. Mozambique got the opportunity to participate in the tournament after Kazakhstan pulled out.

Nepal will take on hosts Malaysia in their first match at the MBPJ Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Nepal will play against Afghanistan on October 17 and Sierra Leone two days later. Nepal last took part in the Merdeka Cup — organised by Malaysia to mark the independence of the country — in 1983.

Current national team coach Krishna Thapa and assistant coach Raju Kaji Shakya were the members of the Nepali side in 1983.

Apart from Nirajan Rayamajhi, who was named the skipper in the absence of veteran defender Rakesh Shrestha, the other three strikers in the team are Anil Gurung, Jumanu Rai and Yugal Kishor Rai.

While Sagar Thapa, Biraj Maharjan, Anjan KC, Chun Bahadur Thapa, Suman Subedi, Rabin Shrestha and Bikash Singh Chhetry are the defenders, Ritesh Thapa and Bikash Malla are the two goalkeepers in the squad.

Sandeep Rai, Bishan Gauchan, Vijay Gurung, Ranjeet Shrestha, Raju Tamang, Nirajan Khadka and Bhola Silwal are the seven midfielders in the team.