KATHMANDU, July 21: "A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty," former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had said this during World War II.
Though it´s not World War II, Nepal has made it to the second round of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers for the first time in its football history and is ready to face strong opponent Jordan in its away match on Thursday. Jordan, ranked 84th in the FIFA rankings, is 64 spots above Nepal, ranked 148. The first leg is scheduled to he held on Saturday.
In the first round, Nepal had defeated East Timor 7-1 in aggregate on home ground.
Nepal´s national football coach Graham Roberts is very much optimistic about his side putting up its best performance despite all odds. "I have hoped either for a goalless draw or a win," Roberts said, "The score in the first leg will be very close."
There are many other differences between the two sides besides the rankings too. Targeting the World Cup Qualifiers, Jordan has played four friendly matches over the last two weeks. It won 4-0 against Yemen and defeated Iraq 5-4 in penalty shootout, while it lost 3-1 to Syria and was defeated 4-3 on penalties by Saudi Arabia.
Nepal, on the other hand, completed the domestic league earlier on Saturday and so had just four days for preparations. But the coach did not complain about it. "Now we should look at the future and make plans accordingly. The past is already gone and we should look into the future to qualify for the group stage."
However, the 52-year old Briton does take the huge gap in ranking very lightly. "There will be 11 players against 11 in the field and a coach against a coach. And the ranking is nothing," said the coach who referred to the recent Copa America quarterfinal match match between fifth ranked Brazil and 32nd ranked Paraguay to prove his point. In the match, Paraguay had won 2-0 in penalty shootout following a goalless stalemate in regulation time.
He said the Nepali players have improved a lot in all aspects.
"I am here for the football team, the country and the [ANFA) president (Ganesh Thapa) to win the trophy," shared Roberts.
Regarding the Jordan team, the former English international said, "Jordan has a very lively and strong team. We should work hard from the very first minute, but I am not afraid of them and we are going there to win the match."
He also dismissed Jordan coach Adnan Hamad´s claim who has rated Nepal as weaker than all the teams they have played in recent friendlies. Roberts said he would show Hamad his mettle after the match.
"My players are fantastic and they are 110 percent fit and everyone is looking forward to a victory," Roberts said, adding, "We should closely examine how the opponents play in the first leg and exploit their weaknesses at home in second leg."
The second leg will be held at the Dasharath Stadium on June 28.