Nepal eye spot in final after seven years

Chittagong, April 11:

Nepal will take on Sri Lanka in the AFC Challenge Cup semi-final here at the MA Aziz Stadium on Wednesday, with a hope to make it to the final of international tournament after seven years. After its final appreance in the eighth SAF Games in Kathmandu, Nepali footballers have not advanced to any international tournament final.

This is the second time these two teams will be meeting in this tournament. Nepal and Sri Lanka played a 1-1 draw in their Group ‘B’ match at the same venue on April 6.

Sri Lanka entered the semi-final without losing a single match. Beating Sri Lanka would be a difficult job especially considering their encounter in the league stage where Nepal had to labour hard to earn an important point.

Sri Lanka could be physically superior but not technically sound than Nepal, but they could cash on their adaptability to the humid Bangladeshi conditions. If front line players succeed in putting in their best, Sri Lanka could face a tough time piercing through the Nepali defence.

Sri Lanka is 145th and Nepal is 175 in the FIFA rankings.

As a preparation for the upcoming 10th South Asian Games (SAG) in their home soil, Sri Lanka has fielded most of their young talents (U-23) under the captaincy of Dudley Lincoln Stanbil.

Since 1995, the two teams have meet six times, including the last encounter in the same tournament but Nepal has won only one. Nepal had defeated Sri Lanka 3-2 in the SAFF Championship held in Goa, India where Naresh Joshi completed hat-trick.

Chief coach of Nepal, Shyam Thapa, said that he would field the same set that defeated India in the quarter-final. Thapa also said that their encounter in the league match had taught Nepali footballers a good lesson. According to him, they had to share points with Sri Lanka in the league match because his players took too much pressure. “We were desperate to win for our safe passage to quarter-final and ended up in drawing the match.”

“Confidence of our players are high after the win against India. There is no need to worry about Sri Lanka as our players have found their rhythm in the last game,” Thapa said.

Skipper Basanta Thapa and Pradeep Maharjan, who has scored five goals so far, are fit for the semi-final. Sri Lankan coach Sampath Parera was also hopeful of his side’s win.

Nepal SQUAD: Basanta Thapa (skipper), Surendra Tamang, Pradeep Maharjan, Vishan Gauchan, Vijay Gurung, Raju Tamang, Tashi Tsering, Anjan KC, Sagar Thapa, Lok Bandhu Gurung, Bikash Malla (GK).