LALITPUR:The Under-16 national team, preparing for the AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers scheduled for October 5-15 in Kathmandu, held the national U-19 team to a 1-1 draw in a friendly match here today.

The U-16 boys, who were a goal behind in the first half, bounced back in the 70th minute through a goal from their captain Sulav Maskey at the Buddhi Bikash Mandal grounds. The U-19 team took the lead when captain Nirajan Malla scored in the 15th minute.

The Under-16 team, focused on their frontline playmaking, earlier played four friendly matches against a compiled casino football team at the same grounds where they won two matches and lost as many of them.

The casino team also included the ‘A’ division players in their squad. The U-16 team coach Dambar Gurung said they will again play the U-19 team on September 30 in another friendly match. The final 23 players for the tournament have already been selected and they are currently in the closed camp. Gurung has also focused on the fitness and stamina of the players. Nepal are pitted with Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon, Maldives and Tajikistan in the Group B qualifiers.

The Nepali coach Sunil Kumar Shrestha said the team was having problems in the conversion rate. “The players are coming along nice with the dribbling and crossing the ball but they are unable to convert them. This is the department where we have been working a lot frequently,” Shrestha added.

Except playing at the U-14 football festival in Tehran in May this year, the team hasn’t played any other international tournaments, meaning, Nepal have to start from the scratch point. Playing in the U-16 Group qualifiers would be a new thing for the players.

The camp consists of the same set of players who participated in the Fair Play Festival in Tehran. “Beside the problem in the front line, the lack of international exposure can affect us in the qualifiers,” said Shrestha. On the other hand, all of the five opponents in Group B are comparatively highly ranked nations, which is the only way Nepal know them.