Nepal coach Khadka takes Nadezhda Cup as test eventThe tournament serves as an exposure for the Nepali women footballers ahead of the 13th South Asian Games.
A four-team Nadezhda Cup in Kyrgyzstan will be a good platform for Nepali national women's football team to find out their strengths and weaknesses in the lead up to the impending 13th South Asian Games.
Nepal will take on the hosts Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the four-team invitational tournament starting on September 8. The tournament will serve as an international exposure ahead of December 1-10 Games that Nepal is hosting. Nepal had lost to India in the final of the last two editions of the regional sports meet. The women's football was only including at the Games in the 11th edition in 2010. Nepal's misery is not just limited to the Games. They also lost to India in the SAFF Championship final in March in Biratnagar.
In fact, Nepal had lost to the South Asian giants in the finals of four out of five editions of SAFF Championship since its inception in 2010. The only occasion, Nepal failed to make into final was during 2016 edition in India, where they succumbed to hosts in the semi-finals. Of the 12 matches played so far against India, Nepal have lost nine, drawn two and won one.
"The Nadezhda Cup is basically a preparation event for the South Asian Games. Our primary objective will be to find out our weaknesses and try to fix them ahead of the Games," Nepal coach Hari Khadka said ahead of their departure to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday. "Our players are gradually finding their feet," said the former national men's football team captain, the architect of the team's only win over India during the group stage of Hero Gold Cup in India in February.
The tournament will be played under the round-robin league format and the top two teams will qualify for the final. The two other teams will fight it out for a third place. Uzbekistan appears the top team of the tournament considering their ranking in FIFA at 44th. Nepal are placed in 101st position while Tajikistan stand on 129th. Kyrgyzstan are a non-ranked team.
Nepal coach Khadka is aware of the Uzbekistan strength but believes Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are on par with Nepal in terms of quality. During a two-match friendly series against India, Uzbekistan had defeated the South Asian giants 5-1 in the first match on August 29 before settling for a 1-1 draw on September 2. Unlike the standard practice of fielding 23-member team, Nepal is leaving with 18 players due to quota restriction by the hosts, informed ANFA.
Nepal open their campaign with a match against Kyrgyzstan on September 8 before taking on Uzbekistan the following day. They wrap up their league campaign with a clash against Tajikistan on September 10. The final and third-placed match will be played on September 12."Like any other team, we will obviously have our eyes on the title. We believe in our ability to beat Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but we have to be practical against Uzbekistan and so will be adopting defensive tactics against them," said Khadka.
Khadka is counting on his star forward Sabitra Bhandari and skipper Niru Thapa to deliver goals. He also has high hopes from his pacey winger Anita Basnet. But he was susceptible about his defensive line up. "We need to be really strong in the back," said Khadka. All Nepal Football Association bade farewell to the team on Wednesday, a day before their scheduled departure.
Goalkeeper: Anjila Tumbapo Subba, Anjana Rana Magar
Defender: Punam Jargha Magar, Hira Kumari Bhujel, Amrita Jaisi, Gita Rana, Kabita Dhimal
Midfielder: Dipa Rai, Renuka Nagarkote, Anita Basnet, Manjali Kumari Yonjan, Saru Limbu, Bimala Chaudhary, Indira RaiForward: Niru Thapa (C), Rekha Poudel, Anita KC,Sabitra Bhandari