Nepal eye last four berth in Bangladesh

Lalitpur, January 7

Nepal national football team left for Bangladesh with eyes firmly set on the semi-final berth of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup slated for January 8-18.

Nepal are in Group A along with defending champions Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, while Group B features Bahrain, the Maldives, Cambodia and Bangladesh U-23 team. Nepal will play their first match on January 9 against Malaysia in Sylhet before taking on Sri Lanka on January 12 in Dhaka. They will face hosts Bangladesh on January 14. The semi-finals will be played on January 17 and 18, while final will be played on January 20.

U-19 coach Bal Gopal Maharjan will coach the team in the absence of head coach Patrick Aussems, who refused to come to Nepal after ANFA changed the squad. According to Aussems, he had given a list of players for the Cup and South Asian Games and the football governing body changed the squad. “I gave ANFA the list of 23 players for Bangladesh and SAG. What a surprise to discover a completely different list of players,” Aussems said in a release on Monday, the same day ANFA announced the team. “I am working in a professional way so I cannot accept to lead a group with players I didn’t select…Regarding the situation, I think it’s useless for me to come back,” added Aussems who is yet to taste a victory in his four-month stay. Aussems has already announced that he would not renew his contract with ANFA.

Aussems spent his four months in changing the playing style of the national team to 4-3-3 but Maharjan was in mood to change the formation in Bangladesh. “We played in 4-3-3 format under Aussems and we are going to change that in Bangladesh,” said Maharjan, who was an assistant under the Belgian during Nepal’s dismal outing in SAFF Championship. “We will try 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 formations and we can change that to 4-3-3 depending on the situation of the match,” he added. “This tournament will be a good exposure for the 12th South Asian Games,” Maharjan, who made eight changes in the squad from the list provided by the Aussems, said.

Skipper Biraj Maharjan said it would not be easy to perform as a set team. “The team consists of young players and they are yet to mix up with senior members of the team,” said Maharjan. “We still do not know about the playing formation and it will be very difficult to play against the likes of Malaysia in the opening match,” he added.

Earlier, Member Secretary of National Sports Council Keshab Kumar Bista and ANFA acting President Narendra Shrestha among others bade farewell to the team. Member Secretary Bista said the team was capable of winning medal for the country. “This squad is young and the matches in Bangladesh will help the players for the upcoming SA Games,” he said.

ANFA acting President Shrestha asked the players to take the tournament seriously and take full advantage. “This tournament will be a great chance to gain experience and we are hopeful of best results from the squad,” Shrestha added. ANFA CEO Indraman Tuladhar said the current squad was built keeping in mind the upcoming South Asian Games and that the team consisted large number of U-23 players. “There are only four senior players in the team and we will pick the SAG squad from among these players,” he added.