Biratnagar, March 13
Nepal national team head coach Hari Khadka urged the players and officials not to panic and said that the players would come back strong in the second match against Bangladesh.
Nepal had defeated lowly Bhutan 3-0 in the opening match of the Women’s SAFF Championship yesterday. And the team’s performance was not up to the mark, if not dismal, in the opening encounter. Even coach Khadka had expected a minimum of six goals against Bhutan and accepted below-par performance from the girls.
“The expectation was definitely high against Bhutan and even I was surprised by the performance of the team in the first half as the players failed to put up their natural game,” Khadka told The Himalayan Times. “The second half performance was satisfactory as the girls caught their rhythm,” added the former national team captain.
“Goals do matter in league round but I am not counting on it alone. We are here to win the championship and we will definitely put up an improved show to beat Bangladesh in the second match and advance to the semi-finals as group winners,” said Khadka. “Bangladesh are strong side but we are confident of beating them to top the pool,” he added.
Khadka said the players seemed lethargic in the first half and that the humid condition might have played a part to that. “They looked tired in the first half and failed to implement the team plan. I had set certain ways — five to be exact — of penetrating into the opponents’ zone but the girls found it hard to go with the plan and spent most of the time in the centre,” said Khadka. “We will change the game plan for the match against Bangladesh.”
In their previous encounter, Nepal had played a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in the Olympic Qualifiers in Myanmar in November last year. Nepal were leading the match until the dying moment before they conceded an equaliser in corner kick. “We were unfortunate to concede the goal moments before the final whistle,” said Khadka. “The standard of Nepali women’s football has gone up and the four-nation tournament in India has also proved that,” said Khadka, whose team defeated Iran and India in the Hero Women’s Gold Cup on the way to finishing second.
The women’s national team is playing on home soil for the first time and coach Khadka described that as an opportunity as well as challenge. “Playing at home ground is an advantage but it comes along with challenge to do better in front of home crowd. The players will not have the cushion of missing any chance as they are watched by the home crowd at all the time,” said Khadka. “At the same time, the players get support from the crowd and that boosts their morale to perform better,” added the coach, who hails from Jhapa, around 100 kilometres east from Biratnagar where the tournament is taking place.
Asked about the chances of winning the maiden trophy and the feeling of leading the side in the Eastern Region, Khadka said the moment would be awesome. “The tournament is being played in Eastern Region and it is a part of the country. But the feeling of lifting the trophy on home soil would be amazing,” he added
Nepal will play against Bangladesh on Saturday in their second match of the tournament.
A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.