National team announced

Kathmandu, May 12:

Nepal’s German coach Thomas Flath today announced the 23-member national football squad for the upcoming qualifying round of the AFC Challenge Cup.

The squad includes 10 defenders, six midfielders, four strikers and three goalkeepers. The defenders in the team are Rakesh Shrestha, Chun Bahadur Thapa, Anjan KC, Biraj Maharjan, Lok Bandhu Gurung, Sagar Thapa, Sandeep Rai, Bikash Singh Chhetri, Suman Subedi and Deepak Bhusal.

Likewise, Pradeep Maharjan, Bijay Gurung, Parbat Pandey, Vishan Gauchan, Nirajan Khadka and Ananta Thapa have found their places in the midfield while Ju Manu Rai, Nirajan Rayamajhi, Bharat Khawas and Raju Tamang have secured their place as strikers. Goalkeepers Bikash Malla, Ritesh Thapa and Kiran Chemjong complete the squad. Striker Anil Gurung was not considered because of his injury.

Among the most notable omission were striker Santosh Sahukhala and midfielder Nabin Neupane.

Coach Flath said that he selected the squad in accordance with their performance in the three-week training since he took the coaching responsibility of the national team. Flath also said that he came to the final decision after consultation with assistant coaches Upendra Man Singh and Bal Gopal Maharjan as well as ANFA technical director Bhim Thapa. “It was a tough decision to make but I had to do it anyways,” said Flath at a press conference here today.

Nepal are in Group ‘D’ of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers beginning on May 24 in Cambodia. Others in the Group are Macau, Palestine and hosts Cambodia. Nepal will open their campaign on May 24 against Macau at the Army Stadium before taking on the hosts two days later at the National Olympic Stadium. Nepal are scheduled to play their final match on May 28 against Palestine at the Army Stadium.

Only toppers from each of the four Groups will qualify for the eight-team finals to be held in Hyderabad from July 30 to August 10. Runners up of the first edition Sri Lanka have already secured their berth for the finals from Group ‘A’. Group ‘B’ comprises of Brunie Darussalam, Bhutan, Tajikistan and Philippines while Group ‘C’ included Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

DPR Korea, Turkmenistan, hosts India and Myanmar have direct entry to the eight-team finals. The winner of the 2008 and 2010 editions of the Challenge Cup will qualify automatically for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup to be held in Doha, Qatar.