Biratnagar, March 19
Nepal national women’s team has never faced a defeat against Sri Lanka but head coach Hari Khadka was not in mood to take the opponents lightly when they face each other in the semi-finals of the fifth Women’s SAFF Championship here at the Sahid Rangashala on Wednesday.
Nepal advanced to the last four as Group A winners after registering identical 3-0 victories over Bhutan and Bangladesh, while Sri Lanka beat the Maldives 2-0 before facing a 5-0 defeat at the hands of India in group stage to make it to the semi-finals as Group B runners-up.
Nepal head coach Khadka demanded another clean chit from his girls to move into the final with a high morale. “After watching the group stage matches of all teams, we are a strong side and we planned to advance to the final with another clean chit,” said Khadka.
“Sri Lanka are not a strong side but that does not mean we will underestimate them. We will play our natural game with the attacking strategy.”
The three-time runners-up Nepal had failed to advance to the final for the first time in the previous edition after going down 3-1 against hosts India two years ago. Despite playing in six finals, Nepal have not been able to win the trophy.
Nepal were runners-up to India in the first three editions of the SAFF Championship and twice in the South Asian Games. Nepal defeated the likes of hosts India and Iran in the group stage of the Hero Gold Cup in Guwahati earlier this year but could not win the title going down 3-1 against Myanmar.
Coach Khadka said the team had not thought about the final and that his side would concentrate in the semi-final match for now. “There is no doubt that we are here with a target of winning the trophy.
But at the moment we are just thinking about the last four clash and we are looking forward to play good football against Sri Lanka,” he said.
Nepal have upper hand in head-to-head results against and Sri Lanka. In the five previous matches, Nepal scored 19 goals without conceding.
Nepal defeated Sri Lanka 8-0 in their first encounter in the 11th South Asian Games in 2010, while they registered identical 3-0 wins in the SAFF Championship in 2012 and 2014. Nepal defeated Sri Lanka 4-0 in the 12th SA Games in India in 2016 and registered a 1-0 victory in the previous edition of the SAFF Championship held in India the same year.
Skipper Niru Thapa said the team was prepared well for the semis. “We have been playing good football and we are confident of beating Sri Lanka to make it to the final,” she said.
“Sri Lanka are also a strong side as they have improved a lot compared to the past but I think our teams is much stronger than them,” said Thapa. “But we have to play to our potential to beat them.”
Like coach Khadka, skipper Thapa also said the team was aware of the complacency.
“We will not underestimate the opponents as that might be dangerous at times and we need to put in our best efforts against them,” added Thapa.
A version of this article appears in print on March 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.