Kuwait mauls Nepal, raising more questions than answers for new coachNepal lost by seven goals to the Gulf nation in the first match of the World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Nepal knew playing Kuwait was going to be a tough one. The national side had played one goalless draw and lost another friendly by 1-0 against the same opponent back in March. Given a victory was going to be a tough ask, head coach Johan Kalin had expected his side to make improved performance from the last matches.
Fans, too, had expected the national side to put a good fight. But whatever happened against the host nation at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium on Thursday was not only humiliating, it was brutal to watch. Nepal’s national side had capitulated.
Kuwait scored the opening in the sixth minute through Yousef Nasser. Bader Al-Mutawa flicked one for Abdullah Mawi who crossed into the box. Nasser ran in between two central defenders Ananta Tamang and Devendra Tamang, both of whom failed to mark his run, and scored past Kiran Chemjong.
The second came in the 13th minute. Fahad Al Hajeri, again unmarked, headed into the net from the corner. Suman Aryal, who was guarding at the upright surprisingly decided not to jump or make any attempts to clear the ball and simply watched as Hajeri headed Kuwait’s second.
Kalin opted for the 4-5-1 formation with Bimal Gharti Magar as the sole striker up front. The formation, often used by many European clubs, is used when a team wants safety-first approach to the game. “The players simply could not coordinate in the formation. They were also technically very poor in the game,” said Sanjeev Mishra, a football analyst based in Kathmandu. “The defense was nowhere when it mattered. They were very poor,” he said.
The heavy loss means Kalin now has more questions than answers from his side. The Swede has been in charge of six matches, including this one, and has yet to taste victory. In fact, Nepal has scored only once and conceded 12 goals under him.
During the entirety of Thursday’s match, Nepal was pegged back against the Kuwaiti side. Nepali forward line fluffed their lines. Such was the lackluster performance by the Nepali side, they had to wait until the 43rd minute to register their first shot, although an off-target one, when Bishal Rai skied from inside the box from Ravi Paswan’s head ball.
The second one did not arrive until the added minutes of the second half when substitute Abhishek Rijal attempted from a tight angle but hit his shot wide. The midfield was non-existent at times failing to maintain possession or win the ball back. And the defense was miserable. “Technically, we played a woeful game. We failed to win or maintain possession,” said Mishra.
Mishra believes one reason for the national side to fare so badly against the opponent whom they lost to few months back with a respectable score line might have been the hot and humid condition in Kuwait. Coach Kalin had also stressed on the need of player’s fitness axing captain Biraj Maharjan for a friendly against Malaysian league Champions Johor Darul Ta’zim FC, which Nepal lost 1-0. He said Maharjan’s exclusion was a message to others.
But watching the second half performance, and especially the added minutes of the second half, one can question if the message from the coach had reached his players or not. In the 93rd minute, Reda Hani took a pass inside the box and, as central defender Devendra simply watched on and not closed Hani down or made an attempt to block the shot, latched into the bottom corner away from the palms of goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong.
It was only after that sixth goal Nepal finally registered their first shot on target. Ravi Paswan fired a powerful shot from inside the box but was palmed away by goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor. Minutes later Paswan passed a sweet cross to Bishal Rai as Rai tried with all his might yet failed to connect the ball before it was collected by the Kuwaiti goalkeeper.
Already six down, Nepal would have desperately wanted for the final whistle to be blown but Kuwait were still not done. Substitute Hussain Al-Musawi ran from near the half line and gave Reda Hani’s cross the direction of the net for an emphatic scoreline.
Drawn in the same group as Asian powerhouse Australia and Jordan, there is little hope that Nepal make it to the second round.
Kalin has been expected to pull some surprises and trouble the opponents during the campaign. But until the Nepali side achieves some serious strides in their performance and strategy, the only side troubled appears to be his own.