Looking to lift maiden trophy of SAFF Women’s Championship at home ground
Biratnagar, March 21
Nepal head coach Hari Khadka said the team was prepared well to break India jinx and lift the maiden trophy when the two neighbouring countries meet in the final of the SAFF Women’s Championship here at the Sahid Rangashala on Friday.
Nepal have never won a trophy despite playing in six finals but the home side look confident this time around.
“We no more fear playing against India and the team is geared up to prove that on the field one more time,” said Khadka, who is aiming to lift his career’s first trophy, both as a coach and player.
India have upper hand in head-to-head results but Nepal defeated the South Asian powerhouse 3-1 when the two sides met last time in the Hero Gold Cup in Guwahati in February.
India win: 7; Nepal win: 1; Draw: 2
|South Asian Games group stage (Dhaka, 2010)||Nepal 0-5 India|
|South Asian Games final (Dhaka, 2010)||Nepal 1-3 India|
|SAFF Championship final (Dhaka, 2010)||Nepal 0-1 India|
|SAFF Championship final (Colombo, 2012)||Nepal 1-3 India|
|SAFF Championship final (Islamabad, 2014)||Nepal 0-6 India|
|South Asian Games group stage (Shillong, 2016)||Nepal 0-0 India|
|South Asian Games final (Shillong, 2016)||Nepal 0-4 India|
|SAFF Championship semi-final (Guwahati, 2016)||Nepal 1-3 India|
|2020 Olympic Qualifiers (Myanmar, 2018)||Nepal 1-1 India|
|Hero Gold Cup group stage (Guwahati, 2019)||Nepal 3-1 India|
They played a 1-1 draw in the 2020 Olympic Qualifiers in Myanmar in November last year. The two sides have met 10 times in the past with India having won seven matches, while Nepal have just one victory with two draws.
They have met each other four times in the SAFF Women’s Championship with India winning on all occasions including the finals in the first three editions. Nepal lost to India in the semi-finals of the previous edition as they failed to make it to the final for the first time.
In the South Asian Games football tournament, the two sides have met each other four times with India winning three — twice in the finals in 2010 and 2016. They played a goalless draw in the league stage of the 2016 SA Games in Shillong before India hammered Nepal 4-0 in the final. Nepal faced a 5-0 defeat in the group stage match in the 2010 SA Games in Dhaka before losing 3-1 in the final. India have so far scored 27 goals against Nepal, while the Himalayan nation netted seven goals in 10 matches.
Nepal head coach Khadka rated India as all-time favourites but said that his team was on the right track in establishing it as a strong contender in women’s football. “We have begun a new chapter in women’s football as we played a draw and beat them in another match since I took over the side,” said the coach. “There is no doubt that India are alltime favourites in South Asia and their team is technically better than us. But at the same time we have shown that they are not unbeatable and we are ready to prove that on the field tomorrow with our main weapon — the fighting spirit,” he added.
Khadka said he was well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian side that the team had prepared the strategy accordingly to tackle them. “We have already overcome the fear of playing against India and I am confident that the girls will implement the team plan to beat them one more time,” he added.
“If we are to believe the destiny, tomorrow is our day and I am sure that we will lift the trophy on home soil.”
Skipper Niru Thapa was also equally confident of stopping India this time around. “We know that we are capable of beating India and we just need to follow the team plan and stick with the strategy,” she said. “We will be champions if we play as per the team plan,” she said.
India coach Mayamol Nedugadan Rocky said both the teams will be looking to lift the trophy and that the better side on the field would become champions. “Nepal are one of the strongest sides of the tournament and we are expecting a competitive match. On my part I am confident of the victory but the team who play better on a given day will win the match,” said Rocky.
Asked about the pressure of playing against the home side, Rocky said her girl had the experience of playing on foreign soil. “These girls have played in many countries in the past and we love to beat our opponents in their own countries,” said Rocky.
India skipper Ashalata Devi Loitongbam was hopeful of winning the trophy. “We have been playing together for four years and we will give our 100 per cent in the field,” said Loitongbam, who said the team was neither in pressure nor relaxed on the eve of the final.
A version of this article appears in print on March 22, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.