SAFF Preview: Nepal - Maldives


Dhaka, 05 Dec 2009 - Nepal´s goalkeeping coach Upendra Man Singh is likely to walk down the memory lane during the Sixth SAFF Championship to be held in Bangabandhu Stadium, Dhaka, on Saturday. As a goalkeeper, Upendra had saved two shots from India in the tie-breaker in the semifinals to lead his team to victory during the Sixth South Asian Federation (SAF) Games 16 years ago. Now Upendra hopes to revive his glory days as the coach of the Nepali team.

Perhaps none of the teams want to compete with a tough opponent like Maldives in the first match of the Sixth SAFF Championship, but Nepal´s chief coach Krishna Thapa is least worried as he was the player who scored two goals against Maldives during the First SAF Games in which Nepal had won the match 4-0. The coincidence of these two former players standing together as coaches might turn lucky for Nepal.

As five editions of the SAFF Championship have already ended, Nepal are still waiting to win the title of the biggest regional football event of South Asia. Although the league matches in the home ground have come to a halt for the past three years, the Nepali football team is in fine fettle.

The morale of the team is high after winning two warm-up matches in India before their arrival in Dhaka. Nepal defeated India´s famed club Mohun Bagan 3-1 and Bhutan´s national team 2-1in Calcutta. This alone is not the reason for Nepal´s confidence. The experience of Jumanu Rai and Santosh Sahukhala as professional players in the Maldives is also a boost-up for Nepal. Nepal´s main forward Jumanu returned from the Maldives after three months´ professional career in All Youth Linkage while Santosh will play from the bench. These two players are well aware of the playing mode of the Maldives players. In addition to this, Anil Gurung who is currently in India´s I League Club Shillong Lajong, has the experience of playing in big matches.

Nepal are in Group A which has been given the name “Group of Death” as three times SAFF Champions India and defending champions Maldives and Afghanistan are also placed in the same group. Nepal will compete with Maldives in the first match on Saturday. Maldives -- another contenders likely to win the title -- have not taken Nepal seriously. This might be helpful for Nepal to win the match.

“We defeated Nepal with a wide margin last year and we will continue with the winning streak,” said´s journalist society quoting the Maldives´ Hungarian coach Urbanyi Istvan Bela.

Nepal had lost 4-1 against the home team Maldives last year in Male. The Maldives team led by Asian Player of the Year 2008 nominee Ali Ashfaque was able to win two out of three practice matches held in the past two weeks. The team defeated Malaysia´s national team 1-0 in the first match and 4-1 in the second match while they lost 2-1 against Korean Club Ulsan Hyundai. Ali scored five goals in the three matches, including a hat-trick against Malaysia.

Nepali team will keep a close eye on Ali in order to win the match. “We will keep a strict marking on Ali,” said coach Thapa adding, “Maldives have some talented players but we are united as a team. Our aim is to win the title.”

Nepal to wear blue jersey in the first game

KATHMANDU, Dec 5: Nepal´s team will have to wear blue jersey in two matches during the SAFF Championship.

According to the toss result of the manager meeting held on Thursday, Nepal will wear blue jersey in the first match against the Maldives and during the last match against Afghanistan.

Nepal will wear the favorite red jersey while facing India in the second match, informed South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) member and All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Vice Chairman Kumar Jung Thapa.

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