Nepal face India in a crucial tie

Trivandrum, December 26

Nepal face India in a must-win encounter of the ninth SAFF Championship here at the Trivandrum International Stadium on Sunday.

Nepal, who lost 1-0 against Sri Lanka in Group A opener on Wednesday, are in do-or-die situation. A win will take Nepal to the semi-finals. India, who defeated Sri Lanka 2-0 on Friday, are at the top of the table with three points, while Sri Lanka are second on inferior goal difference.

Nepal’s coach Patrick Aussems believed his boys were capable of winning the match against India. “The result against Sri Lanka was a disappointment and the mood was not in good condition,” Aussems told reporters on the eve of the match. “But now the boys are ready for the match. We have one chance to be in the championship and I want them to play the same aggressive game that they had in the first match,” he added. “I want the boys to give their best and win the match.”

Aussems said Indian team had some quality players but still were beatable. “I have seen India’s match. They have some quality players. We will try to keep them in trouble and win the match,” he said. “India will play long balls and they have good strikers. My tactics against them will be more technical as they do not have quality players in the middle. I want to have superiority on the ball,” he said.

Nepal have not scored a goal in the last 11 matches, their second longest drought in front of goal. Previously, Nepal had not scored for 13 matches from 1987 to 1989. “The goal drought is extending but the players are hungry to score. We have created opportunities but the strikes have not been able to convert those chances, which is a major problem in the team as we do not have a real striker,” he added.

Aussems believed pressure factor played key role behind players’ failure in scoring goals. “They also lack confidence in front of goal as the players are in psychologically pressure. They need to have confidence as they are the ones to score. If we get a goal, we can score more. So I have told the players to stay focused.”

Skipper Anil Gurung said the team had no option to beat India to have a chance to qualify for the semi-finals. “We are completely focused on the match and we have to beat India at any cost,” he said. “Scoring is our main problem at the moment. But we have to score anyhow to win the match and we are committed to give out 100 per cent,” he added.

Meanwhile, Maldives and defending champions Afghanistan advanced to the semi-finals from Group B. Maldives beat Bangladesh 3-1 riding on goals from Ali Ashfaq, Naiz Hassan and Ahmed Nashid. Sohel Rana scored one for Bangladesh. In another match, Saighani Masih struck twice and Amiri Noraollah netted one goal as Afghanistan thrashed Bhutan 3-0.