Nepal looking for upset win against Philippines

Lalitpur, March 19

Nepal national football team will be eyeing for an upset result when they take on the Philippines in the away match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers to be played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on March 28.

The Philippines are one of the tough opponents for Nepal, who got the opportunity to play in the Qualifiers as a replacement of Guam after winning the AFC Solidarity Cup in Malaysia last year. The Nepali camp is putting up their best efforts to come up with an upset result against the Philippines, who are at the 124th position in FIFA ranking. Nepal are 170th in the ranking.

“The Philippines’ players are physically and technically sound than us but it does not mean we are not capable of winning the match. We will definitely go for a win,” said Nepal head coach Gyotoku Koji, who announced a 20-member squad under the captaincy of BirajMaharjan. The team will leave for the Philippines on March 25.

Nepal have played three international friendly matches against the Philippines and the latter have been dominant on all occasions. Nepal lost 4-0 in a friendly match in 2011 and also faced 3-0 defeats in two friendly matches in 2014. But recent achievements of Nepali team have boosted the morale of the players and coaches. Nepal — who won the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh in January last year — also claimed the AFC Solidarity Cup in Malaysia last November.

“Overall we have prepared well for the encounter and the players are ready to give their best performance,” said skipper Maharjan, who led the national side to the victory in Bangabandhu Gold Cup and captained the U-23 team to the South Asian Games gold medal last year. “Those successes have instilled confidence in the team and we will give tough fight to the Philippines,” added Maharjan. However, Maharjan said playing against Philippines on their home ground under hot temperature would not be easy for them. “We will go into the match with a target of pulling out a victory and we are committed in putting up our full efforts in the match,” he added.

Nepal are in Group F along with the Philippines, Tajikistan and Yemen and the return leg of the opening match is scheduled for November. Similarly, Nepal will play against Yemen on June 13, while the second leg is slated for March 27 next year. They will play Tajikistan on September 5 and October 10. A total of 24 teams have been divided into six groups and top two teams from all groups will make it to the finals of the Asian Cup to be held in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Assistant coach RajuKajiShakya said the Qualifiers would provide the Nepali team with experience of playing against better teams and also learn the opponents’ strategies. “The event will be beneficial for both the players and coaches. We will get the experience of playing against better teams and also can learn techniques and tactics,” said Shakya, who termed the Philippines as tough opponents. “FIFA ranking shows that the Philippines are stronger than us and we have lost against them thrice. But we are setting our strategy to give them a tough fight,” added Shakya.