Nepal coach announces 23-member final squad for SAFF U-15 ChampionshipNepal open their campaign with a match against the hosts on August 21
Nepal on Wednesday announced a 23-member squad for the SAFF U-15 Championship for August 21-31 at the Kalyani Stadium, West Bengal, in India.
Nepal U-15 coach Sunil Shrestha finalised the squad after preparatory camp. A total of 52 players were called up for the camp through various trials and selection procedures. Raj Kumar KC will be Shrestha’s deputy for the tournament while Binod Maharjan is the goalkeeping mentor. Niraj Khadgi is the team manager.
Nepal open their campaign with a match against the hosts on August 21 before taking on Sri Lanka two days later. They play Bangladesh on August 27 and Bhutan on 29. Top two teams after the single round robin league will play for the championship on August 31.
Nepal have never won the title in five editions since its inception in 2011. The tournament was played as the SAFF U-16 Championship for the first three editions and on biennial basis. Since 2017 it turned as an annual U-15 tournament. While India and Bangladesh have won the title twice each, Pakistan secure the inaugural tournament. Nepal have finished runners-up in 2013 and 2017. Shrestha was the in charge of the team in 2017 when India came from a behind to beat hosts 2-1 in the final. Bangladesh are the defending champions.
Coach Shrestha singles out India as favourites for the title. “All the opponents are strong but considering the recent surge of India football, I expect them to tough team,” said Shrestha who has been training the assembled team for the last two months. The age-group team was formed after conducting nationwide open selection. After conducting district and regional selection, 40 players were brought at the ANFA Academy and trained them mixing with about a dozen of age-group players who were already at the academy.
After few weeks of closed camp at the Academy, a group of 52 players were trimmed down to 32 before announcing the final squad which consists of seven Academy players. “The training is going very well and the boys are improving. Our priority is fitness of the players and they in good shape, for now. The current players do not have international exposure yet but playing against tough teams like Police, Army and APF have made them stronger as a team,” added the coach.“Our first match against the hosts will becrucial in our bid for the first title,” said Shrestha whose team lost to Indiain the 2017 final. Shrestha said the tournament will be different from the pastconsidering the change of the format. “Last year, teams were divided into twopools of three teams with top two teams made it to the semi-final. This yearthe top two teams after the round robin league will advance straight into thefinal,” add the coach.