Nepal begin campaign today

KATHMANDU: Nepal will look to attack Lebanon in their opening match of the AFC Under-16 Championship Group B qualifiers at the Dasharath Stadium on Monday.

At a pre-event press meet, Nepali team’s chief coach Dambar Gurung said his side was confident of coming with good results against Lebanon. “Our midfield is the strongest asset for us from where we can create opportunities. So we would rather choose to be offensive right from the outset,” said Gurung. Gurung also said Nepal will have home advantage against their new rivals.

Lebanon, on the other side, believed it would not be hard playing against the hosts as per their evaluation. “We have already played against the Sri Lankan and Bhutanese teams in the U-16 qualifiers and we registered easy wins on both the occasions. We think Nepal also play the similar game,” said the Lebanese coach Nasir Bakhtir. Lebanon defeated Sri Lanka 5-2 and Bhutan 3-1 in the AFC U-16 Championships qualifiers in 2007.

But, Gurung said Lebanon’s results against other countries won’t matter as Nepal also played against the strongest team, Iran, at the U-14 Festival of Football earlier this year in Tehran where Nepal drew the first match 1-1 and lost the other 1-0. “If we calculate these data, we certainly are the strongest side as Lebanon are relatively weaker than Iran,” added Gurung.

Nepal would also keep their eyes wide open in the front line since it is the area where they are considered weak. However, assistant coach Sunil Shrestha was confident of finding the back of the net from the chances created by the midfielders led by captain Sulabh Maskey. “We don’t have extraordinary player like U-19 team has in Nirajan Malla. But, if the midfield creats three or four scoring opportunities and the strikers succeed in converting a couple of them, we would definitely be on top,” said Shrestha.

Lebanon, who said that they have been preparing for the qualifiers for more than three months, are aware of the home advantage for Nepal. Lebanon coach Bakhtir was confident of good challenge against the hosts from their highly spirited players.

The Nepali team’s reliable midfielder and captain Sulabh Maskey said they were ready for a good show in the first match. Maskey along with another midfielder Santosh Thapa, strikers Amar Dangol and Ram Thapa and defender Kushal Shrestha are the key players of the team and coaches believe the fate of the Nepali side highly depends on them.

Tajikistan will take on Bhutan in the inaugural match on Monday.

NEPAL’S STARTING ELEVEN: Laxman Thapa (goalkeeper), Man Bahadur Tamang, Manoj Bista, Kushal Shrestha, Ganesh Thapa (defenders), Sulabh Maskey, Laxman Mahat,

Santosh Thapa, Hem Tamang (midfielders), Amar Dangol and Kumar Thapa (strikers).