Nepal-Iran winner takes all tussle

Kathmandu, 9 Oct 2009 - After a frustrating loss to Lebanon on the first day of the AFC U-16 Group 'B' qualifiers, hosts Nepal face a daunting task to get themselves off the bottom of the table when they battle defending champions Iran on Friday.

Nepal is the only team among the five that have yet to score a point. Tajikistan are at the top of the table with four points followed by Lebanon, Bahrain and Iran respectively.

Nepal, which must win to remain in contention, need an overhaul in their approach. They need to improve their midfield and as well as convert their chances if they are to bag three points against Iran, a team that will definitely get better as the tournament progresses.

Coach Damber Singh Gurung has vowed to change his team's approach and field better strikers and midfielders after the much-vaunted midfielders failed to live up to expectations on the first day.

Gurung is well aware of Iran's hunger to win after a frustrating goal-less draw in the previous game despite their being the better of the two teams throughout the game.

Iran, however, are not a new opponent for Gurung, who has been with the current Nepali squad for the last two years. Two years ago, Gurung's U-14 team, consisting many of the same players as now, had played Iran twice, coming up with a draw (0-0) and a loss (1-0).

But times have changed and Iran are no longer the same side. Many players in the current Iran squad will represent their senior national squad in the years to come and will probably also be playing in the World Cup, given Iran's strong footballing base.

Even in the Iran-Tajikistan draw on Wednesday, the defending champions managed to show why they are the team to beat in the tournament. Blessed with good physique and the ability to play free-flowing football, Iran had put the Tajiks under pressure right though the match. But one thing they failed to get was goals. Iran, however, can be expected to put the game behind and turn on the screws against Nepal.

"We played a good game but failed to score. We will come out as a different team in the next match," said Iran coach. "The rain also affected the performance of the players."

The first match of the day will see table toppers Tajikistan and Lebanon in action. The game is important for both the teams but Tajikistan will look to maintain their winning run to strengthen their chances of qualifying for the next round. Should Tajikistan win the game, they will establish themselves as the forerunner in the race to the next round.

In their first match against Bahrain, Tajikistan played aggressive football, scoring twice while conceding none. In the second they managed to tame the mighty to earn a respectable draw, thanks in no small part to their keeper Shamsov Bahodur, who has yet to concede a goal in the tournament.

Lebanon will be without one of their key players Tommy Hamod, who was shown a red card at the end of the previous match when he tried to punch Ali Jawher Saad Sultan Faraj of Bahrain on the face.

No comments: