SAFF Preview: Nepal - India

Nepal may turn the tables against India


Nepal have created an opportunity of entering the semifinals of the SAFF Championship for the second time. Nepal, who crashed out from the group stage for three consecutive times, now have the chance of making it through to the semifinals after they held the defending champions Maldives to a draw in the first match.

To materialize the dream of entering the semifinals, Nepal will take on South Asian powerhouse India on Monday. If Nepal succeed, they will be the first national team with strong chances of entering the semis in the SAFF after 1999.

In the second SAFF Championship held in Goa in 1999, Nepal had crossed the group stage. Nepal had defeated Sri Lanka 3-2 and lost to Maldives by the same margin. But in the semis Nepal lost to Bangladesh and in the playoff for third place they were again defeated by Maldives.

Looking back into history, Bangladesh always have been lucky for Nepali team in terms of results. In all the 11 clashes against the Indian team, Nepal have emerged victorious twice. Coincidentally, both of the victories Nepal achieved against India were in Bangladesh. The only one title that Nepal won was at the Bangabandhu Stadium, Dhaka in 1993. During the final of the sixth edition of South Asian Games (SAG) Nepal´s custodian Upendra Man Singh saved two penalties to lift the trophy. Then assistant coach Maheshwar Mulmi assumes the same role now.

Despite this, Nepal defeated India 3-0 in the AFC Challenge Cup. Pradip Maharjan struck twice and Basanta Thapa netted one in regular time. This is the only victory, which Nepal achieved in regular time against India. The Indian team was then represented by U-23 players and India have sent their U-23 player for the SAFF Championship this time as well.

“Our place for the semifinals will almost be secure after we beat India (the remaining match will only be a formality). I am very much happy about the team´s success in the friendly match in Kolkata and their performance against Maldives. I expect good show and results against India,” team coach Krishna Thapa said. Besides, the boys are confident. The reserved players are also in form, which is an added advantage, Thapa added.

Earlier, India had a hard fought 1-0 win over Afghanistan. Rather than technically, the Indian team is physically strong. Hit and run was the team´s strategy in its first match. Nepal´s technical match against them can turn the tables.

Indian coach Sukhbinder Singh said that the U-23 team was given a chance in the championship to prepare for future. “To prepare for the Asian Games to be held in Guangzhou, China, next year and for the 2011 Asian Cup, the youth team has been brought here,” Singh said.

The senior team is undergoing closed camp training in India for the Asian Cup. “The youth players who display better footballing in this tournament will also be taken in the national team,” Singh said. He also believes that the team could perform well on Monday as the team has a good record against Nepal.

“Despite being young, the players are highly talented. We have expected a lot from the team. I believe that we could win the match with this team,” said Indian coach Singh, which has won the title four times.

Probable Nepali line-up
Bikash Malla (goalkeeper), Sagar Thapa (captain), Biraj Maharjan, Anjan KC, Rohit Chand, Bijay Gurung, Raju Tamang, Sandeep Rai, Chetan Ghimire, Anil Gurung and Jumanu Rai.

Nepal´s record against India
2nd SAF Games 1985, Dhaka: Nepal 0-2 India
3rd SAF Games 1987, Kolkata: Nepal 0-1 India
4th SAF Games 1989, Pakistan: Nepal 1-2 India
6th SAF Games final, regular time: Nepal 2-2 India (Nepal won in tie breaker after Upendra Man singh saved two penalties)
1st SAARC Gold Cup Football1993, Lahor: Nepal 0-1 India
7th SAF Games 1995, Madras: Nepal 0-3 India
13th Asian Games 1998, Thailand: Nepal 0-1 India
8th SAF Games 1999, Kathmandu: Nepal 0-4 India
4th SAFF Championship 2005, Karachi: Nepal 1-2 India
1st AFC Challenge Cup 2006, Chittagong: Nepal 3-0 India
5th SAFF Championship 2008, Maldives: Nepal 0-4 India

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